Thursday, September 3, 2015

Footloose (2011)

A fiery car crash and the death of five teenagers isn't intuitively the way to begin a movie musical, but it was a wise choice to open the 2011 remake of 1984's "Footloose." The original version opens with a preacher ranting about how we are being "tested" by the world's evils and especially by rock and roll music.

After we see the car crash in the remake, the film makers cut to Dennis Quaid as Pastor Shaw Moore preaching that "we are being tested." The death of young people in their prime (including the pastor's own son) certainly is a more relatable and devastating trial than facing the risk of hearing Men at Work playing on the radio. Moore goes on to say that though children have been lost, they still have children to protect.

Like the preacher in the first film, his sermon is Scripture free, but it is at least understandable on an emotional level for the viewer. In the first film, there was also a car crash killing teens including the minister's son, but the audience doesn't see it. In that film it's something that happened six years before, which keeps the audience from sympathizing with the human impulses that would lead to parents taking drastic measures to keep their kids safe.

Pastor Moore is on the city council, and laws are passed to "keep children safe," including a curfew for those under the age of 18. Dancing is not outlawed, but teens are forbidden from staging dances on their own. In the world of this film, schools and churches can stage dances. The schools won't stage dances anymore because of liability issues. The churches stage dances but the kids don't want to go to "church dances."

This does sort of undercut the basic conflict of the first film. Dancing and even rock music are not banned. They're just regulated. How many teens throw a senior prom for themselves? But teens being teens, if they're told they can't do something, they'll want to do it. Perhaps at the church dances they didn't let them play the anti-Christian theme song, "Footloose," with lyrics such as "Kick off your Sunday shoes" and "Pull me off my knees."

The next sermon we hear from the Rev. Moore is about the evils of progress. He bemoans the use of ATMs (he's probably the kind of guy would call them "ATM machines") instead of going inside to see Old Banker Brown who would give the kids a piece of Bazooka Joe. He chastises his congregation for staring at screens rather than the faces of their families and friends. Many might see value in that sentiment, but again the Rev. Moore uses no Scripture to back up his points. (We do see him practice preaching on the text where the disciples are unable to cast out the demon because of their lack of faith. But we never see him use Scripture in the pulpit.)

The final sermon the Rev. Moore preaches in the film is the same sermon preached towards the end of the first film. He "allows" the dance to go on, because he reasons that parents need to eventually let kids make their own choices. Not a bad sentiment, really, but a sermon should be about God's Word rather than the pastor's opinions.

There is another interesting scene set in a church. After Ariel, the pastor's daughter, is beaten by her boyfriend (not our hero, Ren), she finds her parents in church. Her parents are concerned, but also upset with her. Ariel says "Isn't church where we're supposed to bring our troubles?" If that is true of this church, that people bring their troubles there, that's a good thing. (Also, this is an interesting change from the earlier film, where Ariel says, "Isn't church where we confess our sins?")

During this scene, Ariel confesses to her parents that she isn't a virgin. In both films, the father says, "Don't use that kind of language in this place!" If the word "virgin" isn't welcome in the church, it does make one wonder what euphemism they use at Christmas time.

I have to admit, in spite of the always awesome Kevin Bacon factor, I preferred the remake of "Footloose" to the original; perhaps because I'd take pyrotechnic school bus demolition derbies over tractor chicken competitions. I even prefer the movie church in the "Footloose" remake to the one from the original, if only because it falls into fewer fundamentalist clich├ęs. I'm giving it 2 steeples.

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