What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the music and movement will keep preteens entertained, but the sexual material and profanity may be too mature for the youngest. Teens will enjoy the energy of it, but the music is dated and the central conflict (to hold a dance or not) is a bit hard for teens to buy.
What's the story?
Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) moves to a small Iowa town where a fundamentalist preacher (John Lithgow) has banned dancing, rock 'n roll, and immoral books. He chafes at the restrictions and also runs into difficulties with some of the locals who aren't fond of outsiders. But Ren's rebellious streak catches the eye of the preacher's libertine daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer). Frustrated, Ren leads a group of teens across the border for some illicit dancing. Then he petitions the town council for permission to hold a dance, but his impassioned speech falls on deaf ears. Fortunately, the preacher turns the other cheek when his wife (Dianne Wiest) and Ariel tell him he's being a bad father and a poor minister. With the preacher's consent, the dance goes forward, and some local good old boys even learn how to shake it.
Is it any good?
Released at the dawn of the music video age, the movie shows the definite influence of MTV. With extended dance sequences that are only tangentially related to the plot, the movie plays, in parts, like an early rock video. Teens of the 1980s loved this movie and its music, but today's teens might be bored with the contrived plot, cookie cutter characters, and outdated music.
The love story between the two leads and the preacher's change of heart are unconvincing. But more importantly, why would anybody ban dancing? In this very strange town, drinking and smoking are pretty much ignored, but dancing is definitely a no-no. And the conversion of the preacher is implausible -- a raving tyrant in one scene, he is the voice of reason in another. Poor John Lithgow gives it all he has, but even this fine actor cannot make sense of the character. Kevin Bacon has a lot of fun with his part, but the same cannot be said for Lori Singer.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how we stand up for our values.
What would you have done in Ren's shoes?
How do you relate to authority figures similar to the one portrayed by John Lithgow?