Footloose (2011)

Footloose (2011) – Okay, I know I frequently talk about the 80s like it’s the greatest period of history ever and that every movie made in that decade is a classic worthy of your reverence and adoration, so it might come as a bit of a surprise that I consider the 1984 Kevin Bacon dance movie Footloose to be rather overrated. It’s not a bad movie or anything, I just never got what the big deal is. Maybe it’s because I saw the movie before I was a teenager so that sense of adolescent rebellion that drives the plot wasn’t particularly relevant to me. When I saw it again I was in my twenties and things looked dated and more than a little hokey. Well, it was a hit and you know that means an inevitable remake. As far as Hollywood goes, everything from the 80s is fair game. (Hell, I’m expecting remake of 90s movies any minute now). While they initially planned to adapt the stage musical based on the film, they instead decided to go with a more straight-forward approach. They brought aboard director Craig Brewer whose Hustle and Flow was widely acclaimed and whose Black Snake Moan provoked… more diverse reactions (I liked it). As The Maltese Falcon, The Thing (1982 version), and True Grit have proved, remakes can be better than the originals with the right talent behind them. Did Brewer so elevate Footloose or is, as any foodie will tell you, everything better with Bacon?

So everyone knows that Footloose is set in a small town called Bomont, where dancing among teenagers has been outlawed. (The rock music ban from the original is absent, they just can’t play music loud enough for anyone else to hear it.) This came about after an accident coming back from a dance killed five students. This is only mentioned in the original. In the remake, the accident is shown onscreen and it gives context to the hurt the town is trying to recover from. Anyway, Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) is a student from Boston who comes to live with his uncle and aunt (Ray McKinnon and Kim Dickens, both from Deadwood) after his mother dies. He soon runs afoul of the local forces of law and order as represented by the Rev. Moore (Dennis Quaid, stern but more sympathetic than John Lithgow in the original). It doesn’t help that McCormack is drawn to Moore’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough), who has been rebelling against her father since her brother’s death in the aforementioned accident. Rounding out the cast are Miles Teller in the Chris Penn role of Ren’s best friend Willard, Ziah Colon as Ariel’s friend Rusty (played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the 1984 version), and Patrick John Flueger as Ariel’s sociopathic and eventually abusive boyfriend.

Footloose is still fairly hokey. While the “no dancing” thing extends only to minors and therefore doesn’t raise the same First Amendment questions as in the original film it still seems an extreme measure that wouldn’t really happen. Then again I’m a city boy and know little of small town ways… Lord knows the country at large isn’t above religiously-motivated extreme measures. Anyway, plausibility isn’t the main issue. All in all, I rather enjoyed Footloose. I would even say that I liked it better than the original. Sacrilege to some, I am sure, but Wormald’s ridiculous Bah-ston accent aside, he’s a charismatic leading man and Hough, formerly of Dancing with the Stars, does well in the female lead (and is easy on the eyes as well). There is more of an air of verisimilitude that Brewer brings to the film that was missing in its 1984 incarnation. Again, not that realism is the standard here, but everything seems more grounded in character than before. Dance movies aren’t always my thing (possibly because I cannot dance worth a damn despite numerous people’s attempts to teach me), but I enjoyed this one.

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