Mr. Efron, I know Kevin Bacon. I can be connected by two degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon, thanks to a distant cousin who once made a movie with his “Wild Things” costar Matt Dillon (long story). And you, Mr. Efron, are no Kevin Bacon.
I should start right off by saying that overall, I admire the work of one Mr. Zac Efron. There, I said it.
That’s right: I enjoyed his portrayal of the most likeable jock in the world in Disney Channel’s “High School Musical,” which thanks to my 8-year-old daughter, Jackie, I have now officially seen more times than “The Godfather.” I thought that in “Hairspray” — which my wife picked to see last weekend to get back at me for making her sit through “Munich” in 2005 — he more than held his own against John Travolta in his fat suit and Christopher Walken in his Christopher Walken suit. Also, I marvel at how his hair represents the end goal of scientific efforts to achieve just the right combination of bangs and gel.
But I have to draw the line at Zac Efron’s attempts to usurp my childhood memories, or at least my teenage-hood ones. Because Mr. Efron, I know Kevin Bacon. I can be connected by two degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon, thanks to a distant cousin who once made a movie with his “Wild Things” costar Matt Dillon (long story). And you, Mr. Efron, are no Kevin Bacon.
I’m referring of course to reports that Efron is slated to star in a remake of “Footloose,” the 1984 movie in which Kevin Bacon plays a teenager who moves to a small town where dancing is illegal, falls for the minister’s daughter who likes to hang out of moving cars, and teaches the town that we can all get along if we just dance together, specifically to Kenny Loggins songs. And, unless I’m hallucinating, I think there was a tractor race.
Well, I didn’t say it was a good movie. In fact, I drew some ire from my high school classmates when I panned it in the school newspaper, arguing (without irony) that it lacked the depth of the previous year’s dance hit “Flashdance.” This was the movie where an exotic dancer makes the Pittsburgh Ballet even though her most discernable talent is her ability to remove her bra without taking off her shirt. To a 15-year-old boy, this is like Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.”
So yes, “Footloose” was a bad movie, but it was our bad movie, like so many others that filled up my teenage weekends. Movies like “Red Dawn,” wherein the Russians invade America and our only hope for freedom is Charlie Sheen and Patrick Swayze, and possibly C. Thomas Howell. Or the Steve Guttenberg “funny” robot flick “Short Circuit,” which I’m fairly certain the American Film Institute has yet to include on any of its “Best Of” lists — it probably wouldn’t even make a list of Best Steve Guttenberg Movies.
But now Zac Efron wants to co-opt that mid-’80s bad movie vibe for a new generation, and I don’t like it one bit. Granted, maybe I’m just jealous of Zac because I know how much my daughter likes him — no matter how great a dad I am, I’ll never be able to simultaneously win the championship, get the starring role in the musical and convincingly sing the line “I’m soooooaring, flyyyyyying” while making little airplane movements with my arms. The first two are completely out of reach, and whenever I try the last one I tend to trip over the couch.
So that’s why I’ve decided if I can’t beat Zac at his own game, I’ll have to join him: My wife and I took Jackie to the stage version of “High School Musical” at North Shore Music Theatre last week, I plan to watch the “HSM” TV sequel with her this August, and though it pains me, if she wants I’ll even take her to see the new “Footloose” when it comes out — if I have to replace old movie memories with new ones, I’d just as soon do it with her.
I’ll even bite my tongue about how Zac Efron would be lucky if he goes on to make a film even half as seminal as, say, “Tremors,” the movie about giant worms that attack a small town and have to be stopped by Kevin Bacon and the father from “Family Ties.” That’s another one I’ve seen more times than “The Godfather,” and I have no one to blame but myself.
Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind the “The Shorelines Blog” (blogs.townonline.com/shorelines). To receive At Large by e-mail, write to email@example.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”