"I saw this in a movie once."
That's what Ariel tells Ren before she plays chicken with a train in Footloose,
just one of several risky stunts that the high school characters pull off in the remake, similar to the original.
Teenagers acting reckless, that's to be expected whether its 1984 or 2011. But movies providing the ideas? That's so 20 years ago.
And yet two new releases show wannabe-cool characters engaging in dangerous behavior with no consequences. Abduction
opens with Taylor Lautner
traveling to a party via the hood of a truck, spread eagle across the windshield. Footloose
shows Julianne Hough (the new "Ariel") jumping into a stock car and hanging out of its window mid-race. Later, Kenny Wormald (the new "Ren") participates in a last man standing school bus race/demolition derby; he doesn't back down, even when his vehicle is on fire.
Perhaps Botox has frozen Hollywood's brain. Studios stopped featuring young characters in perilously awesome feats after Touchstone's 1993 college football movie The Program led to the deaths and injuries of young men who were imitating its "test of courage" by laying down on the yellow line in the middle of a busy street (the scene was subsequently cut out of the movie).
Hollywood's history is full of tragedies from kids trying "me too" on-screen exploits. Dozens of teens plunged to their death replicating the game of chicken in Rebel Without a Cause, where James Dean and Corey Allen speed toward a cliff to see who can bail nearest the edge. Titanic's romantic "I'm the King of the World!" scene has caused all cruise lines to be on edge after at least one drowning and countless near misses. We'll never know just how many concussions, broken bones, and bruised privates resulted from the Jackass movies, but it is known that at least one Albuquerque teen lost his life.
This is where fingers start pointing at the parents, right? Exactly. Parents should be more involved with the media consumed by their sons and daughters. But honestly, media is so pervasive and accessible, it's virtually impossible for even the most hovering parent to stay on top of every moment of every movie, TV show, YouTube clip and internet article their kid views. Yes, as Rev. Shaw Moore eventually concludes in Footloose, our kids can't prove they are trustworthy unless we trust them. But kids also don't have the life experience to always make the best decisions. We need Hollywood to be responsible.
I'm not thrilled by the antics in the Footloose remake but I'm definitely thankful to director Craig Brewer for replacing the original film's more easily imitable scenes of Ariel straddling two moving vehicles and Ren and Ariel's boyfriend Chuck showing their mettle by charging at each other on tractors.
Footloose may not have been the defining movie of my generation but it was the defining movie of my youth. As a former wild child rebel, it feels a little weird to be sitting on this side of the podium. But, I'm not the Bomont City Council demanding a ban on books, music and movies. I'm just advocating filmmakers think twice before making death-defying activities look so darn fun, especially in movies aimed at teens and children.
Most kids will NOT try to stunts they see in Footloose and Abduction at home. Some kids will copy what they see and nothing will come of it except a story to tell their friends. Eventually, though, some kid somewhere will attempt an act they saw in a movie, probably to get the respect of their peers, and instead will lose their life.
If your teen wants to see Footloose, see it with them. Or see it without them. The best part of Footloose is the one thing it will definitely inspire: conversation.