Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reviews:
Everybody cut footloose ... Here's Mike Nelson:
As I look back on the families whose work and lives I have examined as a critic of megacheese, I can think of none whose story is as bold and thrilling as the clan I turn my attention to now. As maverick as the Wright brothers, as tough and devoted as the fighting Sullivans, as pouty as the Judds—such is the Penn family. Chris, Sean, and Michael Penn are a kind of gritty Osmonds, their talent extending as it does to such varied media.
The Penn family was founded in 1681 when father William Penn was granted the land of what was then West Jersey in a settlement with Charles II. He envisioned a place where his sons could settle and, without fear of persecution, star in movies such as Footloose, We’re No Angels, and The Game. He sought for his sons the freedom to record songs with lines such as “what if I was Romeo in black jeans,” for at the time such grammatical failings might be corrected at the pillory.
The Penn family has unswervingly earned out their father’s unique vision, or so recent viewings of both Footloose and The Game have convinced me. Footloose (1984) starred Michael Penn, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow, and, of course, Kevin Bacon, whose father, Sir Francis Bacon, lord chancellor to James I envisioned a world in which painstaking scientific method would be utilized in the making of such movies as “He Said, She Said.”
In Footloose, Chris Penn did what he does best: play a gape-mouthed idiot. It was Chris who tried to convince the young firebrand Bacon it was unwise that “everybody cut, everybody cut. Everybody cut, everybody cut. Every body cut, everybody cut. Everybody cut footloose.” Chris was effective in this movie in large part because his appearance and mine are the antithesis of those who like to cut footloose. I remarked same to some acquaintances of mine at a gathering where all of us were cutting foot loose, and everyone agreed.
Bacon plays an outsider in a decidedly foot-fight town whose citizenry think so little of themselves that they allow John Lithgow to boss them around. By doing stupid dances and improbable gymnastics in a dusty barn, Bacon is able to convince them that the wisest course is indeed to cut footloose. When the movie came out, the country agreed, and the broomstick-thin Kenny Loggins led us all in endless choruses as we happily kicked off our Sunday shoes. It was a giddy and wonderful time.
While Chris was at the center of this phenomenon, brother Sean was busy helping wife Madonna develop her frightening, conical breast missiles (both fashionable and practical, the breastplate allowed Madonna to post amazingly low drag coefficients in test after test at the Nevada wind tunnel), as well as starring in “Shanghai Surprise.” Sean had already made a name for himself in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a monstrously successful film in which he played a gape-mouthed idiot. While Sean has turned in a number of great performances in films such as Racing with the Moon and Dead Man Walking, as well as directing The Crossing Guard, he should be led off in stocks for his complicity in making The Game with Michael Douglas.
Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese. Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are available from Amazon.com on both video and DVD, and he co-wrote the MST3000 book
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© 2000 Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles & reviews. Mike Nelson is no relation to Lloyd Bridges and has never cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut footloose.