- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
ootloose” is the perfect kind of property to remake because, $80 million in 1984 dollars be damned, the original is a bad, bad movie. The writing is stilted, the acting is spotty, and the story is flat-out ridiculous. The 2011 version has its share of ridiculous moments as well (angry dancing, anyone?), but the story structure is far superior to the original, and the dialogue is much snappier. While it doesn’t excuse Hollywood and their tendency to prefer the established property, regardless of its quality, over a new idea, at least they’re getting better at making the reboots watchable.
After losing his mother to leukemia, Ren McCormick (Kenny Wormald, a dead ringer for Johnny Depp circa “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) must leave his hometown of Boston to live with his aunt and uncle in the none-more-rural town of Bomont, Georgia, where three years earlier a car accident took the lives of five teenagers and led the city councilmen to ban pretty much everything teenagers like to do. Ren, a gymnast, is shocked to discover that kids aren’t allowed to dance, but at first that is the least of his concerns, as Ariel (Julianne Hough), the rebellious daughter of Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), has her sights on him, much to the dismay of her stock car-racing lunkhead boyfriend Chuck (Patrick John Flueger). After Ren settles in, though, that dancing thing really eats at him, and he decides to stick it to the Man.
In the first 20 minutes, “Footloose” resolves two of the core problems of the original film. They establish a motive for the town becoming a dance-free zone, and they show the kids dancing when the po-po isn’t around to bust them, whereas in the original film they don’t show anyone dancing until the final scene, at which point every kid in school busts out dope moves that they couldn’t possibly possess. Best of all, Ren gets a back story. He’s not just your typical sullen teen; he’s a teen who’s still reeling from the death of his mother. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference.
Kenny Wormald is about to have a moment. Nearly all of his film credits to this point have been as Dancer #2 or Dancer #3, but he makes Ren likable in a way that Kevin Bacon never could, and his baby face makes him a surefire tween idol. Hough is frustrating, though that really isn’t her fault; she’s just drawn that way, and her breakdown in the third act is convincing. Much like Chris Penn in the original, Miles Teller gets most of the laughs as Ren’s rhythm-challenged friend Willard, and Ray McKinnon makes the most of his small role as Ren’s uncle Wes. The choreography is sharp (though one could argue the director has a foot fetish), and there are some interesting covers of the songs from the original soundtrack, particularly Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero,” which is transformed from epic dance track to tender ballad.
What trips the movie up is when it feels obliged to pay homage to the original. There is the aforementioned ‘angry dancing’ sequence, and while they do a better job of setting up that scene as well, it’s still silly. Likewise, Ren’s inspirational speech in front of the city council is just as corny as it was the first time. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is the chemistry between Ren and Ariel. Sure, she’s gorgeous, and they look great together, but she is the textbook definition of ‘hot mess,’ someone a clean-cut kid like Ren would likely stay away from. The Bomont area also appears to be a rather easy place for teens to buy beer, something you’d think would be impossible given the circumstances.
If the pilfering of ‘80s films must continue (though ideally, it will stop, soon), the other studios could learn a thing or two from what Paramount did here with “Footloose.” They clearly approached the film knowing that the source material is, ahem, imperfect, and did their best to address the story’s weaknesses while maintaining its most memorable moments. Pity, then, that some of those memorable moments are also some of the most embarrassing, and could have used a makeover or, better yet, been scrapped altogether. Still, this movie is far better than anyone had a right to expect, but let’s not get any ideas about prepping “American Anthem” or “Gymkata” for a reimagining. Quit while you’re ahead, guys.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
There aren’t an overwhelming number of extras on the "Footloose" Blu-ray/DVD combo, but the ones they included are noteworthy. Director Craig Brewer provides an audio commentary, there are separate featurettes on the making of the film, the cast, and the types of dancing they included, and there are a handful of deleted scenes that were all worthy of making the final cut. These guys clearly had fun making this film, and that shows in the extras.