‘Footloose’ remake brings new shoes to the dance
As is the case for the vast majority of Hollywood’s remakes, no reason stands out to reintroduce “Footloose” — the iconic 1984 Kevin Bacon movie with the infamous Kenny Loggins theme song of the same name. But while it lacks the emotional angst so potent in the original and its dance moves so woefully inadequate in the age of “Glee” and “Step Up,” this version — with its updated music, Southern touches and dance-crazy lead — is surprisingly well-handled and energetic.
If you’ve seen the original, then not much will surprise here. The City Council of Bomont, Ga., has outlawed dancing (and loud music, among other “inappropriate” fun) in response to a tragic event. After a drunken night full of dancing to the “Footloose” theme song (sung by Blake Shelton this time), a group of local teenagers died in a car wreck, among them the only son of Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), who also is father to Ariel (Julianne Hough).
Three years pass. Ariel, once a goody two-shoes, now runs wild with a local racecar driver (Partick John Flueger). The town’s young dutifully obeys the restrictive ordinances, except when they sneak out and don’t obey them. Hey, when you gotta dance…
But the serene, if facile, peace doesn’t last. Enter Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald), a Boston boy who moves to live with his uncle and aunt. And the boy is constantly in motion, causing a stir wherever he goes.
Director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow,” “Black Snake Moan”) does inject new twists, even if the plot largely remains the same. Instead of a game of chicken on tractors, for instance, you get a dirt-track race involving some decked-out school buses. He balances tongue-in-cheek references with more modern touches. (Bomont has cellphones now, you know.) And he keeps the action moving at a toe-tapping pace.
However, Brewer spends a little too much time on these action sequences to the detriment of the dance numbers. Though the music is better, more eclectic than the original (even if you include the ’80s-throwback and breakneck hip-hop tracks), watching teenagers line dance just doesn’t hold a candle to some of the passionate dance extravaganzas regularly found on any episode of “Glee.” Don’t worry, though: You still get to hear Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.”
But that’s not the only feature lacking passion. Wormald, a former dancer for Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveShow tour, has the energy and moves to get the job done (Bacon needed a dancing double), but he lacks the emotional draw, the sensuality that makes dancing so powerful a release. He performs his Angry Dance so flawlessly you never forget he’s doing a carefully choreographed sequence.
A more pleasant surprise is Miles Teller as Willard, Ren’s best friend. His lankiness and relatability combine with his natural charm in a comical way, something severely lacking in “Footloose.”
Brewer’s talents, instead, lie in a more vulgar, pulpy melodrama, showcased in “Black Snake Moan.” That’s not to say it doesn’t work with “Footloose,” but the latter is an exercise in silliness and sincerity. It simply can’t be taken too seriously. After all, in the end, after all the high-stakes battles, it boils down to the dancing.
“Footloose,” even with its modern update, still has two left feet. It’s a bundle of carefree fun, but it’s also far too serious at times for a movie that celebrates teenage rebellion, young love and soul-cleansing dance. Brewer did a respectable job crafting a remake of a mediocre movie that, along with “Flashdance,” somehow changed a generation. Will this version do the same? Probably not. But that’s OK because, if nothing else, this “Footloose,” like the last, makes you want to dance. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Three dancing stars out of five.