From the opening titles to the exuberant finale, “Footloose” is a ridiculous 1980s musical. Like “Flashdance” and “Fame” before it, the movie flirts with being a Hollywood musical but stops just short. The characters here never break out in song, but for some reason it seemed acceptable at the time that movie characters break out in dance. So we are spared hearing Kevin Bacon warble through “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” but we do get to see him boogie down at the big dance and solo through an acrobatic display of dancing and gymnastic agility in a barn.
My admiration for Michael Caine is so immense that this awkward bit of unpleasant memory does not diminish it. The 1980s were the prime era of sex comedies featuring frequent nude shots of young women in order to bring in the audience. Of course that type of thing had been done before, but usually in a drive-in “B” picture that would remain obscure after it was out of the passion pits. This was a major release, starring well know adult actors, and it was advertised and marketed like any other straight comedy of the day. As it turns out, this was a remake of a French farce from the seventies, relocated from the beaches of the Riviera to Rio de Janeiro. Now I’m not a prude, and the marketing clearly worked at getting me in the theater, but the subject matter and execution make it less frothy and naughty and more creepy and sour.
Two middle aged men, played by Caine and Joseph Bologna, travel to Rio for a vacation and take their teen daughters with them. The mood of the city takes over and the next thing you know, Caine’s “Uncle Matthew” is having a fling with his best friends nubile daughter. If that sounds a little tacky, get ready to be impressed because there is more tackiness to come.