Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Lori Singer, Christopher Penn
I was sitting in my hospital bed when my physician shared the bad news that the infection we had been battling for months was winning and there was no longer a choice. He would need to amputate my left foot from approximately mid-calf.
Needless to say, I was distraught. While I had grown up with spina bifida, and was quite accustomed to disability I still was not emotionally or physically prepared for the actual loss of a limb. It would mean a change in my mobility most likely, from crutches to a wheelchair. After a lifetime of adjustments, the loss of a limb was going to be my most challenging adjustment yet.
I spent the next few hours meditating, praying, listening to music, talking to friends and working my way through the sadness, rage and despair that I was feeling. When my physician returned later that night to explain the procedure in greater detail, he asked me if I had any questions. I responded "No questions, but one request." I handed him a small cassette player with a cassette already in it. I said "Play this as I'm drifting off to sleep. It will keep me calm." You could tell this request caught him by surprise, but he almost immediately agreed.
Early the next morning, I was carted off to the operating room, placed upon the table and hooked up to the IV that would carry the anesthetic. The anesthesiologist, nurses and, finally, the physician did their introductions and I said "You have the tape?" He replied that he'd forgotten all about it, didn't check it out to see if it was okay...then, after a moment, he returned with the cassette player and pushed play. The familiar intro to the Kenny Loggins' hit "Footloose" filled the room, everyone heard the first few lines and I heard laughter as I began to drift off to sleep. Mission accomplished.
The 1984 film "Footloose" has played an integral part in my life, and despite its inherent and numerous flaws it is a film I will always cherish for its heart, spirit, music and well-timed presence in my life.
The story is a familiar one in cinema. It revolves around Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), the new kid in a small Midwestern high school who is a bit too radical in this conservative town where dancing is outlawed and a local minister (John Lithgow) whose daughter was killed in an auto accident several years earlier enforces the law with an iron will.
Everything about the story is stereotypical, from the minister's "bad girl" daughter (Lori Singer) to the ever understanding wife (Dianne Wiest) to Ren's goofy best friend (Christopher Penn).
This year, however, there's a fire burning in the heart of the senior class and led by Ren they become determined to overturn the "No dancing" law and hold their Senior Prom.
"Footloose" was recently brought back to life as a Broadway musical, and it is the music that truly brings this film to life. With numerous hits, including the aforementioned title song, Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It For The Boy," Mike Reno/Ann Wilson's "Almost Paradise" and Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" leading the way. The music, while practically the definition of bubblegum pop, is infection, fun and memorable. Of course, in a movie such as this one the scenes often play out as something closer to music videos including the hilariously campy closing dance scenes.
The direction by Herbert Ross is methodical, predictable but constantly energetic and lively. Dean Pitchford's script follows the same line. If I were following only my critical mind, I'm fairly sure "Footloose" would not be a "B+" film. Quite honestly, I'm not. I'm following my heart on this one, and acknowledging the important role that "Footloose" played, and continues to play in my life. At a time in my life when I needed hope, laughter, inspiration and fun I found "Footloose" and even though I am now "Footless" I will always be grateful for the way this film has positively impacted my life.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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Richard Propes, The Independent Critic