I am an unabashed Footloose fanatic. I love everything about the 1984 dance fever classic. The big hair, the loud clothes, the synthesized music, John Lithgow; I love it all. Sure, when you scrutinize the plot (which, incidentally, requires very little scrutiny), the original is full of continuity errors, gapping plot holes and less-than-stellar acting, but I love it nonetheless.
Which makes the notion of a remake all the more unnecessary. I frankly see no point in it. Director Craig Brewer knows this, and because he knows this, he must understand that he has a lot going against his film. With all that in mind, there’s only one thing a person can do, really. Sit back, relax, and (try to) enjoy the show.
Which, much to my surprise, is exactly what I did.
Footloose starts the exact same way as the original, with an extended credit sequence of various shoes cuttin’ it loose to Kenny Loggins’ titular track. However, visible in Brewer’s version are kicked kegs, red plastic party cubs, spilt beer, and dozens of wasted teens. Before the movie even begins, five of those teens have been killed via a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler. This is very ballsy stuff. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed.
When we meet Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) he’s fresh off a bus from Boston, strutting with spiked hair, a leather jacket and a Yankee attitude. Ren has spent an unexplained amount of time nursing his mother to death from leukemia. He’s tired, he’s pissed, and he’s in serious need of what every teenager who has just lost their mother requires: a little dancin’.
You know the drill. Ren has moved to Bomont, a small, deeply religious town where dancing, among other things, is illegal. He befriends Willard (Miles Teller), a good-hearted country bumpkin and soon falls for Ariel, the rebellious preacher’s daughter (Julianne Hough). After being victim to a little not-so-Southern hospitality, Ren decides to get a petition in motion to reverse the law against dancing.
The good: It’s fun, but only when people aren’t talking. Brewer’s Footloose, much like the original, has the dance numbers down pat. Wormald and Hough did most of their own dancing, the result of which is tremendously impressive.
|Wormald and Teller|
Miles Teller (in the Chris Penn role) brings some much needed levity to the film. He is given the best material, and in return, delivers a genuinely hilarious performance. He knocks every line out of the park. Likewise Ren’s aunt and uncle, played respectively by Kim Dickens and Ray McKinnon, two great character actors known mostly for their television work, including their roles in the HBO series Deadwood. Their characters were the best changes to the new Footloose. Instead of having a cranky uncle and an underused aunt, Dickens and McKinnon are tender and respectful. They each have their shining moments, and they handle them well.
The bad: When the film isn’t involved in a dance number, it is simply dead. This is mostly the fault of Wormald and Hough, who have virtually no acting talent. That great scene from the original, in which Kevin Bacon uses a verse from the Bible to state his case to the town council, falls devastatingly flat here. Likewise Hough’s big moment when she tells her father (played aimlessly by Dennis Quaid) that she isn’t a virgin. That scene starts well (rather superb, actually) but gets muddled by length and horrible dialogue.
In short, the new Footloose is simply inconsistent. It’s six minutes longer than the original, yet so much feels left out. If you haven’t seen the first film, then you’ll know nothing about the characters’ motivations. If Brewer (who directed the very impeccable Hustle & Flow), was aiming to solely have fun, then he achieved that. But what about the other 90 minutes? C
Note: Much of this film was ruined by Wormald’s horrible Boston accent. It was distracting, and nothing short of laughable. Now, having discovered that that is Wormald’s real voice, I must admit that I like the movie a little bit more.