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Featured Blu-ray Review: Footloose

October 12th, 2011

Footloose - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The original Footloose came out on Blu-ray a couple weeks ago. The screener arrived late, but since the new version of Footloose hits theaters this Friday, the timing of the review couldn't be better.

The Movie

Ren McCormack and his mother Ethel (Frances Lee McCain) have recently moved from Chicago to the small town of Bomont, Texas. Bomont is a conservative town whose fiery preacher, Reverend Shaw Moore, is pushing a message demonizing Rock 'n' Roll. He's been so successful in his crusade that music and dancing are outlawed.

While Ren clashes with the establishment, he quickly makes friends with a few of his classmates, including Willard, whom he meets on the first day of school. He also meets Ariel and there's an instant attraction. This is a bit of a problem, as Ariel already has a boyfriend, Chuck, who takes an instant dislike to Ren, going so far as to challenge him to a game of chicken with tractors. Worse still, Ariel's father is none other than Reverend Shaw Moore. So not only is Ren getting too close to the Reverend's daughter, but he's trying to bring back Rock 'n' Roll undoing all of the Reverend's work in the process. When the Reverend turns against Ren, so does most of the town. Things start to get really bad for Ren, and when Ren's down, there's only one thing he can do. Dance!

As I've said before, I find this a rather silly movie. The overall plot is exceedingly simplistic pitting a big city kid against a conservative small town that tries to control him. Films about youthful rebellion are hardly uncommon, and done well, they can become something that lasts a long, long time. This is not one of those films. It takes what is a rather silly premise and treats it as if it were some great civil rights struggle. Sadly, the writers didn't take the time to create compelling characters, and outside of John Lithgow, none of the actors are able to lift their flat characters and give them any depth. And even with John Lithgow's passion and talent, I still didn't believe his character's sudden turnaround. It comes across not as an organic evolution in the character, but a change necessitated by the plot that had no way to transition from one state to the other. It's so jarring that I wouldn't be surprised if there were scenes that were cut from the film that were supposed to smooth the transformation.

On the other hand, there are a number of songs that are very good.

The Extras

There are a lot of extras that are new to the recently released DVD and Blu-ray starting with two audio commentary tracks. The first is with the producer, Craig Zadan, and the writer, Dean Pitchford, while the second is with the star, Kevin Bacon. They are both solid tracks and worth checking out if you are a fan of the movie. There are also several featurettes, starting with Let's Dance!, a 12-minute interview featurette with Kevin Bacon. Sarah Jessica Parker has an eight-minute interview. Next up is a six-minute featurette on Chris Penn, who sadly passed away in 2006. Finally, there are two archival segments with Kevin Bacon screen tests (with Kevin Bacon commentary) and a montage of costume tests. There are also the extras from the 2004 DVD, which include a two-part, 30-minute making of featurette and a 14-minute featurette on the music.

The technical presentation is inconsistent, to be polite. At times the video is so bad that I didn't recognize Kevin Bacon, because the DNR scrubbed away the details in his face. There are compression artifacts, crushing shadows, edge enhancement, etc. The best scenes do look good, but there are too many problems throughout the film. The audio is better with clear dialogue while the surround sound speakers are filled with music and even a few directional effects.

$17 isn't too much to pay for a catalog release, but the new version of the DVD is only $12 and it includes all of the new extras.

The Verdict

There are a lot of people who really like Footloose, I'm just not one of them. The new Deluxe Edition DVD and Blu-ray have plenty of new extras, but the latter suffers from a video transfer that is not up to par.

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Filed under: Video Review, Footloose