Kevin Bacon plays Ren brilliantly as the boy who looks bad, but acts honorably. His stress-relief dance scene was one of a kind and completely satisfying. Lori Singer is great as the repressed daughter. She seems conflicted about how to react to the way her family life has gone, and her relationships are clearly a symptom of that situation. I'll honestly say, though, out of all the performances John Lithgow might be the best. He plays Reverend Moore as someone who isn't really acting out of hate, someone who has a heart and a conscience (sometimes embodied for us by Dianne Wiest,) but also as someone who has allowed his fear and grief to take control of him. The scene where his daughter finally confronts him in church was emotionally devastating for me, because I could see what was underlying that entire discussion.
I think the one big missing link in the film was a blatant conversation where they discuss the death in the family. It just seemed like they came so close, but there wasn't a cathartic moment where you could see them deal with that and achieve full reconciliation between father and daughter. But even without that, I still had so much fun with Footloose. The songs are so catchy, and almost demand tapping your toes or just getting up and dancing along. The montage where Ren teaches Willard to dance is amazing, and watching the final sequence I couldn't help smiling from ear to ear. Footloose isn't perfect, but it's pretty close and gave me something to be happy about today.
The original's got a few 80s oddities, like the hair metal, the camera editing tricks, the gauzy balloon and confetti filter during the prom dance, and a high school full of built, adult-looking, male gymnasts, but one thing that I enjoyed more here is the fleshing out of Shaw and Vi's story. I've always thought John Lithgow such a goofy actor, by virtue of "3rd Rock From the Sun" being my first exposure to him, but I forget that he's actually a very decorated performer, and he is brilliantly grave and conflicted as the Reverend. Dianne Wiest also gives a quietly determined performance as the good little preacher's wife.