Saturday, May 09, 2009

Untethered Hoof

So I was in a store the other day the other day when I overheard something on the radio about a Footloose remake.

Really Hollywood? Are things that bad in the world of ideas that this is considered a good one? Really? I mean, I know that there is a long and dreary history of remaking and refashioning hits from the past and abroad. I know that while we may quibble as to the exact number of basic plots out there, the number is finite and everything has already been done. I know that really what matters is the execution of the story and many a remake has exceeded the original in quality and entertainment value. I know. But still, I can't help but think they could have found a better way to tell the basic outlines of this particular story:
Sophisticated, yet lonely Outsider enters a small, insular community. He is greeted with mistrust by the bulk of the community, because he is different and brings new ideas, ideas which are perceived to be threatening to the delicate social balance of the community as a whole. However, there are a few who welcome the diversity, and they befriend the Outsider. Gradually, more people begin to see the diversity as a good thing, a thing which only strengthens the community. Soon, the only people who oppose the Outsider and his ideas are a few people in positions of power and the community comes to see that they rigidly adhere to the insular ways as a means of retaining power and they are toppled, usually after a big revelatory showdown. Everybody lives happily ever after.
Not only is this the plot of Footloose, it is the plot for Pleasantville, The Karate Kid, and Dodge City, among many others. Note, I am not advocating anyone go and remake those movies either, I'm just that pointing out that there are ways to tell this story without resorting to remaking a film which wasn't very good in the first place. Because let's be honest here, the movie, for all the talent of the cast, was egregious. Yes, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest are in it, Kevin Bacon did a ton of work to prepare for the role (I heard that Fresh Air interview a few years back), the film is saying something meaningful about oppression of the individual and the fear of the other, and it is 90% better than most of the films of the decade. I will grant that I am probably being far too hard on this film as I haven't actually seen Footloose since I first loathed it a quarter century ago, and it is possible I would be pleasantly surprised by the quality of it if I were to see it now. However, the film should still not be remade and can never be forgiven for one thing:

It was the vector for that awful song.

That song is, quite possibly, one of the worst things to come out of the decade of my adolescence (and the 80s have a lot to answer for, so that is saying something). The song was a bland, non-threatening example of what happens when a song is designed to appeal to people's parents, to show them "look Rock & Roll music isn't scary. Rock & Roll music is your friend. It's good clean fun. There is nothing sexual about Rock & Roll. There is nothing rough or rebellious about Rock & Roll. Only a moron with no taste would be afraid of Rock & Roll" which, admittedly, was the point of the film, but I would also add that only a moron with no taste would like this particular song, so you would think the town establishment would have been loving it from day one, right? I mean, the film expects us to believe Kevin Bacon's character was cool when this was the music he listened to when he wanted to "rock out"? Is this a joke?

However, in spite of all this, there is a good reason to remake Footloose: it is topical.

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