The musical sequences are good enough that they make you wish Ross had been willing to leave the surface realism behind and break out into the high stylization and exuberance of the genre's classic days. Despite the hesitations, it's miles above "Flashdance" in technique and intelligence.
Footloose is a seriously confused movie that tries to do three things, and does all of them badly. It wants to tell the story of a conflict in a town, it wants to introduce some flashy teenage characters, and part of the time it wants to be a music video. It's possible that no movie with this many agendas can be good; maybe somebody should have decided, early on, exactly what the movie was supposed to be about.
It's depressing to see director Herbert Ross strain to fabricate an atmosphere of urgency around such perfunctory characters, events and crises. A minimal lyric can be finessed by stylish orchestration much easier than a minimal script can be finessed by streamlined composition and emphatic cutting. [18 Feb 1984, p.G1]
Ross, who began his career as a dancer and choreographer, brings plenty of gusto to the material and the performances are ebullient, but this is still a cynical and manipulative exercise with little feel for the teen culture it purports to celebrate.
Footloose is for an audience that wants something easy to think about, a conflict in which the two sides are easy to distinguish and an "enemy" who is easy to look down upon. It's for the folks who like to skip dinner and go right to the cream- filled finale, and though not quite evil, it's as silly as can be. [1 Mar 1984, p.D12]