Paramount has stumbled upon a financial bonanza—but these films are neither good nor art.
The Latest in a new kind of film being produced by Paramount Pictures arrived in neighborhood theaters late this winter. Footloose was quickly panned by critics, but its style guaranteed a smashingly successful opening weekend, when it grossed $8 million. Of Paramount’s new “house style” David Blum wrote for the Chicago Tribune: “It is a style born purely of the profit motive, a style based on the runaway success of a single movie—Saturday Night Fever.…” (Feb. 13, 1984).
Reviewers Harry Cheney and Lloyd Billingsley comment on Footloose, then discuss this approach to filmmaking.
directed by Herbert Ross
Footloose—essentially Flashdance in pants—is the sort of film that sets off geysers of invective from critics, but makes tons of money anyway. And to make money, studios have found that characters, plot, verisimilitude, meaningful dialogue, sensitive visuals, and other marks of art are unnecessary.
Ren, a big-city youth fond of dancing, moves to Bomont, an American version of medieval Spain, controlled by a puritanical minister and his cabal of book-burning half-wits. Will Ren overcome them? Will dancing prevail? Watching this Lilliputian struggle is not entertainment, it is a sentence. For good measure, clichés and absurdities are ladled on in thick gobs, seasoned with a little violence.
The only redeeming performance is by John Lithgow as the minister. In spite of a truly execrable script, he evokes some sympathy for the man; one can almost believe he is real. The other characters are the stuff of cartoons.
Footloose even fails as a long record commercial or rock video. The music is banal, and the sloppy dancing ...1
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