Based on the real-life effort from the kids of Elmore City, Oklahoma, to overturn a law in their town banning public dancing, Footloose is about more than rowdy high school kids wanting to show off their cool moves. Though driven by its soundtrack (Footloose was one of the first films to use its soundtrack as a plot device and a promotional tool), the films larger focus is on growing up, dealing with loss, and youthful rebellion.

The rebellion comes in the form of Chicago-bred Ren (Kevin Bacon) who finds himself in the small town of Bomont—the heart of the Bible belt—where he soon learns that rock music and dancing are banned. Folks in Bomont immediately see him as a troublemaker because of his big-city background and challenge to Bomont ideals (he calls Slaughterhouse-5, a “classic,” in front of the town’s reverend). In truth though, Ren is just another new kid in town, who wants desperately to fit in. Since he’s a senior in high school, that job is doubly hard.

Leading the charge against Ren is the Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow), a hard-line preacher who finds Ren’s happy-go-lucky attitude blasphemous. Nonetheless, he can’t help but befriend Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), a rebellious thrill-seeker who also happens to be the good Reverend’s daughter. Finally, Ren learns the reason behind the bans: five years earlier, a group of kids got killed during a night out (including Reverend Moore´s son). Alcohol, rock music and other inappropriate influences were blamed for the accident. As a result, the town put the bans in place to prevent another tragedy. Of course, nothing makes teenagers more determined to break the rules than for adults to tell them not to do something. No one better exemplifies this than the reverend’s own daughter Ariel (Lori Singer), who drinks, dances and even dates the town redneck, Chuck (Jim Youngs). It’s obvious she’s doing all this just to get her father’s attention.

I’ve always felt John Lithgow was an underrated actor, and here, as Reverend Shaw he shines. Lithgow doesn’t portray the character as simply a religious fanatic out to take the fun out of everyone’s lives. Instead, he’s a deeply vulnerable man, devastated by the heartbreaking death of his son. As a result, he’s much more protective of his only surviving child, daughter Ariel. Ariel for all her rebellious acts, is still daddy’s little girl, begging for attention.

Of course, Footloose was a major box office hit and made Kevin Bacon a star. He has this film to thank for a what has turned out to be a long and successful career in movies. Another noteworthy performance was Chris Penn´s portrayal of Willard Hewitt, Ren’s lovable, if somewhat clueless buddy. Footloose also marked one of the earliest film roles for a young Sarah Jessica Parker as Ariel´s friend, Rusty.

I saw Footloose at least four times when it was in theaters back in 1984. I played the cassette of the soundtrack so much I had to buy it twice and have since upgraded it to CD and then MP3. Footloose may not have been groundbreaking stuff, but the mix of teen rebellion, music, and dancing sure made for some fun times.

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the Blu-ray release ten years ago left a lot to be desired. While this 4K release isn’t perfect, it marks a vast improvement over previous releases. Increased contrast levels are immediately noticeable, as are inkier blacks. There are still a few spots where the gain looks on the blotchy side. Also, colors aren’t as bright as they could be. Even so, this is an upgrade from the Blu-ray release.

For a film whose soundtrack is a central part of the story, the DTS-HD Master is a strong one. While most of the action takes place in the fronts, surrounds kick in when appropriate. There are no real anomalies throughout. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise.

English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available on the included Blu-ray. They are identical to the 2011 release:

  • Audio Commentary: Producer Craig Zadan and Writer Dean Pitchford.
  • Audio Commentary: Actor Kevin Bacon.
  • Let’s Dance! Kevin Bacon on Footloose
  • From Bomont to the Big Apple: An Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Remembering Willard
  • Kevin Bacon’s Screen Test
  • Kevin Bacon Costume Montage
  • Footloose: A Modern Musical — Part 1
  • Footloose: A Modern Musical — Part 2
  • Footloose: Songs That Tell a Story
  • Footloose Theatrical Trailer

Get your copy of Footloose on 4K here!

Footloose (1984)
3.9 Reviewer