We’ve been cutting loose around When Can I Watch headquarters ever since catching Craig Brewer’s excellent Footloose remake a few weeks back. It’s sexy. It’s high-energy. It’s way more fun than I anticipated and it pokes gigantic holes in my theory that remakes are a poison injected into the well of creativity.
Normally I’m the first one to chide lazy Hollywood executives for dusting off a successful premise so it can be served to a younger demographic. But Brewer -- who tackled the power of music and sexuality in his previous two films Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan -- proves to be the ideal director for a modern Footloose.
Later this week, I’ll comment on Brewer’s Footloose remake for parents who no doubt are hearing from teenagers who’ve seen commercials on MTV or during Dancing With the Stars. But before we touch on the new, let’s kick off our Sunday shoes, go dancin’ in the sheets, hold out for a hero ‘til the end of the night, and figure out when you can watch Footloose with your kids.
Red Flags: I’ve Got This Feeling That Time’s Just Holding Me Down
Every once in a while, I’ll revisit a movie that played a significant part of my childhood and think, “What the hell were my parents thinking letting me watch this?”
My VHS copy of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, for example, snapped from overuse. Now? Well, now I’d want to protect my sons from Johnny stabbing a Soc to death, Dallas getting gunned down by the police and Johnny later dying from third-degree burns.
Footloose is another staple that sets off warning lights now that I’m a parent. It likely will with you, too. Brewer, in a recent interview, commented on the original Footloose and its PG rating, stating that it likely, would be rated R today.
He’s not exaggerating. Characters got away with a lot more in 1984 when it came to suggestive talk and on-screen danger. The language in Footloose alone would have earned it a PG-13, if the rating existed when it came out that February. It was the gory violence on screen in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which hit theaters in May of the same year, that notoriously inspired the advanced rating. But Footloose no doubt contributed to the parental concerns over what was being shown in theaters.
Ross’s film runs through a laundry list of wild-child thrills: Ariel exercising her death wish by switching automobiles while speeding down a country road; Ren titillating Willard (the late Chris Penn) with his sordid tale of a three-way that never happened; a chicken race with tractors (and Ren’s macho rival smoking way too much pot before operating heavy machinery); high school kids dealing drugs between classes; male nudity in a shower scene; and Ariel’s rough break up with ex-boyfriend Chuck (Jim Youngs). And by “rough,” I mean Chuck doing his best Jake LaMotta impersonation, leaving Ariel a bloody, beaten mess.
And then there’s Ariel’s “I’m not even a virgin” confession. If you are a parent, that’s a swift kick to the gut. If you are a parent of a teenage daughter, it’s a swift kick to the groin.
Granted, these are realistic problems teenagers often face, and the issues on screen in Footloose pale in comparison to red flags raised by pseudo-empowering films like Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, for example. But parents should be aware that movies like Footloose get a nostalgic pass because we loved them as kids. That doesn’t always mean our kids are old enough to love them, as well.
Green Lights: Kick off your Sunday shoes
If you do choose to show Footloose to your children, though, there’s plenty to appreciate.
Above all else, Footloose captures a teenager’s need to expend his or her restless energies, usually through dance. Watch the kids shimmy and shake around the drive-thru to the beat of Shalamar’s “Dancing In the Sheets.”
Teenagers have to keep moving, it seems, or they’ll combust. Footloose director Herbert Ross -- who earned his first and only Oscar nomination for The Turning Point, a 1977 drama set in the world of ballet -- kicks off the stodgy limitations of that format to turn up the energy in this 1984 crowd-pleaser, and virtually any teenager will tap into that raw power.
Ross’s picture also deserves credit for its steadfast approach to Ren dealing with being an outsider (and receiving pressure from his own family).
For the most part, he’s strong enough to stand up for his convictions, even if it means flying in the face of someone as powerful as Rev. Moore (John Lithgow). Newcomer Kenny Wormald, who plays Ren in Brewer’s revision, has been telling interviewers that he was most concerned with nailing the town council scenes, where he stands up to Moore to fight for what he believes in, and when you realize what a turning point (no pun intended) it is in Ross’s movie, you can see why.
I place a little more emphasis, however, on Ren and Willard’s unlikely friendship, which gives Footloose all of its heart. Bacon’s chemistry with his co-star is solidified by the late Chris Penn’s unfiltered honesty and goofball charms. Let’s hear it for the boy, indeed.
Everything I remembered about Footloose was tied to the film’s bouncy soundtrack, so if you’d asked me prior to revisiting the original – or seeing Craig Brewer’s remake – I would have gone young. Maybe around 10. But the content in Footloose is age-appropriate for older teenagers who, themselves, are starting to feel a little loose, a little rebellious.
The PG rating’s off base, and parents glancing at the back of the DVD box might be surprised if they just pop the disc in for their kids. While the messages in Footloose are worthy, the red flags are real. Make sure your kids are old enough to appreciate the sentiment when Ren stands before his elders and explains, “This is our time to dance. It’s our way of celebrating life.” Because it can be a celebration, when the time is right.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That With My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Spy Kids, to name just a few.