A looser Footloose not necessarily better
An original music-based film written for the big screen is a rarity. So, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to revive 1984’s popular “Footloose,” which launched Kevin Bacon’s career and sent a soundtrack soaring up the charts to sales of over eight million copies. The results for the remake are mixed.
While it made sense to update the dancing to acknowledge the popularity of hip-hop and country line dancing, the more twangy versions of the most popular songs are likely to enrage longtime “Footloose” fans. It’s as if the filmmakers decided, “We’re sticking with the basic script, but this ain’t your mama’s “Footloose.” While still relatively innocent in content – parents who were enthralled with the PG-rated original and want to share this re-boot with their kids now might be embarrassed at the sexual and alcohol related content and language – but to expect otherwise out of Hollywood these days is fantasy.
Still, the new “Footloose” has some good things going for it. For starters, as Ren MacCormick, newcomer and James Dean-channeling Kenny Wormald is charismatic as all get out, and his professional dancing experience is obvious. (It’s too bad his “angry dance” is showcased using an entirely forgettable hip-hop flavored tune.) Also terrific is country singer and “Dancing with the Stars” alum Julianne Hough, who, looking like a young Jennifer Aniston herself, brings verve and smolder to the role of Ariel, the rebellious preacher’s daughter. Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell are solid as her parents.
Easily the best improvement to this update is scene-stealing Miles Teller (so excellent in “Rabbit Hole”) as Ren’s rhythmically-challenged buddy Willard.
The story is basically the same with a few twists (Ren is from Boston and this time around an orphan), and director Craig Brewer (“Hustle and Flow”) brings some local authenticity to the proceedings since the venue has changed to a small town in Georgia instead of the Midwest. As in the original, Ren, initially shunned as the new kid in town, uses his smarts and chutzpah to convince the town council to soften the ban on dancing that was enacted three years prior when a car accident killed a five local teens. Wormald is convincing as a young man who genuinely wants to respectfully appease the fears of concerned parents but still have a good time.
And really, isn’t having a good time what “Footloose” is all about? Choreographer Jamal Sims (who also did great work in “Step Up 3D”) does a fine job of utilizing the urban influences of the soundtrack’s songs, but he is undermined by some poor filming (too many close-ups among other missteps). For comparison, see how Kenny Ortega’s choreography was superbly framed in the “High School Musical” films.
Even with these misgivings, “Footloose” is brimming with energy, and those who care more about a film’s entertainment value than its respect for nostalgia will likely ‘cut loose’ and have fun.
Rated PG-13 for teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language.