Footloose: 10 Things that Don’t Make Sense

Ariel and Ren in Footloose 1984

A few years ago on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Kevin Bacon reprised his role as Ren McCormick in “Footloose” for a dance number that is quickly going viral. It brought back memories of the movie — how much I enjoyed watching it coming back from a youth retreat, how important it seemed at the time: A movie featuring pop music!

The music was instantly catchy, there was some decent dancing, and the all-important “We kids are people too and the grown-ups are wrong” concept was present — a concept that seemed at the core of every 80s movie from then on.

I forced my kids to watch the original “Footloose” the other night, and they pretty much hated it. And surprisingly, so did I.

I don’t have a problem with the main premise: out-of-town boy comes into a town that is essentially a theocracy set up by the local pastor. You see that in many small towns, from book burning to warnings about satanic messages in songs. I saw it in my town growing up. So that can be pretty accurate. Some of the writing is good, and Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest show a glimpse of what great actors they would become.

But there are other things that just don’t make sense in this movie:

  1. How, in a town where dancing is banned, can almost everyone dance really well? The only one who doesn’t know how to dance is Willard, but Ren teaches him somehow. The rest of the crowd at the dance — well, they’re farmers’ kids and they suddenly know how to break dance.  Where did they learn this?
  2. Why does Chuck, stereotypical redneck in a town without music, have a Pink Floyd and a Grateful Dead sticker on his back window? Granted, they’re not my favorite go-to bands, but he doesn’t have a Ricky Scaggs or George Strait bumper sticker.
  3. Ren bumps into Willard on the first day of school, and Willard instantly turns hostile. He criticizes Ren’s driving and Ren counters with, “Nice hat. Do they sell men’s clothes where you got that?” Shouldn’t Willard’s first reaction be to beat the crap out of Ren instead of laughing and introducing himself? “Oh, you got me, new guy. I should admit defeat in front of all my classmates and make friends.”
  4. When Ariel is at the drive-in restaurant and turns on “Dancing in the Sheets” on the jam box stationed on Chuck’s pickup, how is it so loud that everyone inside the restaurant — including the girls in the bathroom — can hear it? Was it Bluetooth enabled?
  5. In such a small town, shouldn’t Rev. Moore (John Lithgow) have heard about some of the things his daughter is doing — especially dating a pot-smoking redneck? It would have been the scandal of the year in tiny Bomont, and everyone would have been talking about it.
  6. What’s a high bar doing in a flour mill? Did Ren put it there to practice his gymnastics? For that matter, why does a high school that small have a gymnastics team?
  7. In the “chicken race” involving two tractors — yes, two tractors — Ren is going about 10 miles an hour on his tractor. So why does Chuck freak out and jump off his tractor? Wouldn’t a collision at that speed barely do any damage? Wouldn’t he risk the tractor falling on top of him? But then again, he is a redneck. . .
  8. When Ren, Ariel, Willard and Rusty (Sarah Jessica Parker) go dancing, a big beer-bellied 40-something comes up and starts dancing with Rusty. Eww. Why would she even entertain this, nay, even be flattered, especially when Willard objects?
  9. What are Christians doing throwing bricks through windows? (Which led to my favorite line of the movie: “‘Burn in hell?’ Hey, this says ‘Burn in hell’!”) Let he who is without sin cast the first brick.
  10. After hearing all the bad things associated with dancing and rock music, what do our heroes do at the prom? Ren and Willard beat up Chuck and his goons and then congratulate each other on the ass-kicking. How’s that for perpetuating the small-town residents’ stereotypes? That was soooo disappointing.

I’ll have to give the 2011 version a try and see if it’s any better. My guess is no.

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    Suggestion: Title should read “10 Things That Don’t Make No Sense.” (Just a little redneck perspective!!) The interview with Bacon on Fallon was so interesting! I didn’t know that he wasn’t really a dancer. He still has some pretty good moves!