Dirty Dancing v Footloose

The Footloose remake is on the big screen… the Dirty Dancing remake is in the pipeline. What better time then to revisit the originals with an 80s face-off featuring Sunday shoes being kicked off and Swayze’s shirt being ripped off. Ross McD and Ross McG pit these two dancing giants against each other. Read the arguments below and decide which movie is best.

Ross McG: Dirty Dancing

‘Fight harder, huh?’

Baby. Swayze. Baby. Bit more Baby. A hint of Swayze. Some more Swayze. Baby again. Baby and Swayze. Swayze. More Swayze. Lots more Swayze. Swayze. Swayze! Swayze! Swayze!

The formula for Dirty Dancing is not revolutionary (girl meets boy; girl falls for boy; boy doesn’t like girl; boy dances then sleeps with girl; boy likes girl) but it is executed with such gutsy freshness that there really is no film quite like it.

In Patrick ‘The Swayze’ Swayze and Jennifer Grey it boasts perhaps the two most likeable romantic leads in cinematic history. Forget Hepburn and Tracy, when these two are in the room together sparks fly. Their onscreen chemistry alone would make Dirty Dancing worth carrying a watermelon for. But throw in an astounding – if often anachronistic – soundtrack and some unforgettable dance sequences and you have a genuine classic. Footloose may be in the same sport, but it isn’t in the same league.

Dirty Dancing begins with a superb credits sequence: black and white figures slo-mo boogying to The Ronettes’ Be My Baby. It’s simple, it’s classy and it immediately thrusts you back to 1963. Footloose, in fairness, almost manages to match this with its opening of various pairs of feet grooving along to Kenny Loggins’ title track. But after that all-too-brief trip into the danger zone, the film settles into seen-it-all-before smalltown angst mush.

We are quickly introduced to Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), free-spirited daughter to a local preacher (the excellent-as-always John ‘yes, I know the muffin man’ Lithgow). She is wild. She is rebellious. She also happens to be the most annoying character in a decade jam-packed full of them. By the time Kevin Bacon’s rock ‘n’ roll-loving out-of-towner shows up on the scene, you find yourself urging him to run a mile from her – not go dancing with her. In Dirty Dancing, however, it is a joy to follow the summer at Kellerman’s Resort through the eyes of Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, the everywoman to end all everywomen.

'I loved you in Red Dawn.' - 'No, I loved YOU in Red Dawn.'

'I loved you in Red Dawn.' - 'No, I loved YOU in Red Dawn.'

Footloose has some cracking tunes but it is weighed down by so much over-emotion it doesn’t allow its characters to ring true. We love Baby and Swayze’s Johnny Castle because we believe in them, there is something natural about them that makes them so real. The only character in Footloose we can identify with is yokel Willard, played with heartwarming naivety by Chris Penn, yet he is reduced to lesser-spotted sidekick rather than meaty starring role.

Dirty Dancing’s main draw, of course, is The Swayze. The Late Great Swayze. If you looked up ‘charisma’ in the dictionary, you would find the definition of ‘charisma’ – which is what The Swayze brings in abundance here. His signature moves in this film are well known – the tree trunk shuffle and the water hold are both excellent – but his best moment is less strain-inducing. It’s the look in his eyes when he walks through the hall door at the finale to insist on doing the last dance of the season with the corner-bound Baby. It is this tiny moment that makes your heart jump.

We all know what it’s like to have a summer romance. And with Dirty Dancing we have the chance to relive it all over again whenever we want. Footloose can’t possibly keep up with its quickstep. In the memorable finale, The Swayze puts on a record that won’t come out for another quarter of a century. But it doesn’t matter. The Swayze transcends time, he can do whatever the hell he likes.

Ross McD: Footloose

‘Been workin’ so hard…’

Before we start, let me just confirm that Footloose is rubbish. The plots behind it and Dirty Dancing are equally crap. But Footloose’s one redeeming feature wipes the dancefloor with its opponent. On one side, you have the soppy strains of I’ve Had The Time Of My Life, a song which strikes fear into the hearts and arms of men everywhere. On the other side, you have the absolute awesomeness that is Kenny Loggins.

Footloose plays to its strengths here, visiting the song three times before it ends. In fact, one of its biggest failures is that the song isn’t running in the background throughout the entire movie. If you say you aren’t at the very least tapping your toes, or at the most jumping around the room like a lithe Kevin Bacon stunt double, you sir, are lying. Bacon also plays to his strengths in this film by shutting up when the musicians are at work: nobody wants to hear Patrick Swayze warbling about how she is akin to a fart, but watch Dirty Dancing and you have to.

Footloose is a dancing film that makes you want to dance. I’ll wager the largely female fanbase of Dirty Dancing just want to be lifted up by Patrick Swayze, or have him check if their cardiovascular system is functioning correctly. Though at least the fans wouldn’t spend two hours humming and hawing about whether to let Patrick Swayze hoist them in the air, which is pretty much a plot summary of Dirty Dancing. It’s a pity Swayze didn’t drop Baby on her face actually: it might have saved all that money she wasted downsizing her signature nose.


Fine, I'LL stand in the corner...

Poor Jenny Grey. She never got a look-in in Hollywood after chopping off her massive conker. Luckily, Footloose’s much hotter Lori Singer didn’t have any such problems. Another person who is familiar with having misplaced body parts on their head is Singer’s Footloose co-star Sarah Jessica Parker, whose face closely resembles a foot. But SJP didn’t go try altering the way God hilariously built her, and look how well she’s done. Although she is married to Matthew feckin’ Broderick, poor thing.

Unlike Dirty Dancing, Footloose has at least a few scenes guys would find interesting, from the awesome tractor fight to the downright excellent stunt work at the start of the film when Singer’s Ariel jumps from speeding car to speeding lorry while having a game of chicken with an oncoming cargo truck.

The film’s best (Logginsless) scene comes at the climax, when after a revolutionary movement by the town’s young folk, they spend days converting an old barn to a dishko-teck, handing out flyers, buying decorations, putting up lights, hiring DJs, getting all dolled up, until the big night arrives, the camera cuts to the big moment… and everyone is awkwardly standing around the walls. Funny, brutal honesty. From the superb opening sequence of manky Nikes and legwarmers bopping along, to the big dance-off finale, all to the – if I may reiterate – awesomeness that is Kenny Loggins.

And what are you talking about Swayze? Did you ever think that perhaps Baby put herself in the corner? There’s only four seats here, where else is she supposed to sit? She isn’t even in the corner! We’re sitting at a round table halfway up the room, there isn’t a corner anywhere near us! She’s got the best view of the stage from there! Would you prefer if she sat with her back to everyone? And who are you to tell me where I put my kids anyway? I am the Law AND Order!



3 Responses to “Dirty Dancing v Footloose”

  1. Dirty Dancing has the better soundtrack (just) but Footloose has a point. Dirty Dancing has the better dancing, but Footloose has the better story. Dirty Dancing has the suitably sentimental ending but Footloose has Chris Penn doing a stupid dance (that gets even more stupid). Tough one. But…if I have to choose…Footloose because of Tracker Chicken!

  2. I can’t get over the fact that dancing was made illegal. Can’t do it.

  3. …John Lithgow is an underrated actor…he’s great in a comedic role but equally as good as the villain (okay, well not equally as good but reasonable…Cliffhanger!!)

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