Release Date: October 14, 2011
Genre: Musical Drama
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 113 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures/Viacom
Director: Craig Brewer
Executive Producer: None
Address Comments To:Sumner Redstone, Chairman/CEO, Viacom
Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO
Adam Goodman, President, Paramount Film Group
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
The story opens with a terrible car crash in a small Georgia town that kills five teenagers driving home from an impromptu dance party on a nearby farm. One of the victims is the only son of the town preacher, Shaw Moore. In the wake of the tragedy, Rev. Moore speaks in favor of a city ordinance that bans non-sanctioned dances, loud music, and lewd dancing and that institutes a harsher curfew for teenagers.
Several years later, 17-year-old Ren McCormick, whose mother just died of cancer, comes to live with his mother’s sister and her husband, a churchgoing car salesman. Ren can’t believe the town’s strict laws.
Meanwhile, the pastor’s daughter, Ariel, also 17, has rebelled against her father and taken up with an older boy, Chuck. Chuck takes Ariel for granted but goads her into fornicating with her.
Chuck gets jealous when he sees Ren has taken a liking to Ariel. For her part, Ariel tries to play both boys against one another. In one scene, she tries seducing Ren, but Ren mocks her sexual tease. He realizes she’s acting out. It also becomes clear that Ariel and her father have never gotten over her brother’s death.
Eventually, Ariel breaks up with Chuck and takes up with Ren. Then, Ren decides to challenge the town’s strict laws against dancing. He sets up a senior dance outside the city limits and decides to defend his decision before the town council.
Like the first movie, the most entertaining part of FOOTLOOSE is the title song dance number and the scene where Ren teaches the awkward country boy how to dance, to the jaunty tune “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” The youthful cast is very good, as are the veteran actors who add some gravitas to the story.
The first two acts, however, have many scenes of teenage rebellion, including lewd behavior and foul language. This changes when the teenage hero, Ren, decides to challenge the laws by using Bible verses like Psalm 149:3 and Ecclesiastes 3:4, which says there’s “a time to mourn and a time to dance. . . .” Ren also tells his fellow teenagers that there will be no lewd dancing or alcohol at their dance. Thus, despite the movie’s earlier scenes of teenage rebellion, the ending offers a biblical resolution of the controversy between the adults and the teenagers. Not only does Ren offer Bible verses, he also compromises with the grief-stricken pastor and town leaders by making the proposed dance less objectionable.
This kind of compromise has long been a trope in many Hollywood movies, where social tensions between rich and poor, men and women, ranchers and farmers, etc., are resolved by a higher law or a larger sense of community. FOOTLOOSE is to be commended for making the position of the pastor and the other grief-stricken parents more understandable. As Producer Brad Weston notes, he and the director wanted to make the parents more sympathetic because “we are both parents of young children.”
That said, the foul language, teenage rebellion, and lewd content in the rest of the movie warrant extreme caution. Consequently, the movie’s Romantic promotion of free self-expression goes a bit too far. One line of dialogue symbolizes this negative content in the first two acts, when Ren tells his new friends, “Rules are meant to be broken.” This content could have been toned down to make a cleaner, more family-friendly movie. As it is, despite the happy ending, MOVIEGUIDE® cannot entirely sanctify this FOOTLOOSE for impressionable teenagers, who might act out the movie’s more objectionable parts. See the CONTENT section above for more details.
FOOTLOOSE has an uplifting, positive ending with strong biblical references, where Ren and the town leaders figure out a compromise. Until then, however, the movie is full of teenage rebellion, plenty of foul language, some implied underage alcohol use, and some lewd behavior. This negative content is combined with an attitude that rules are meant to be broken. FOOTLOOSE is not an appropriate movie for impressionable teenagers.