The original 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer isn't just a dance movie; it's a film that helped to capture the voice of a generation. And while the first Footloose isn't a perfect movie, its continued popularity can not be denied. So, what's the point of remaking a film that works as well now when you pop it into a DVD player as it did nearly 30 years ago? And what's the point of setting up a director and cast to be the objects of derision for daring to touch a film as popular as Footloose? The simple answer - and I had to eat a hardy helping of crow after seeing the 2011 version while coming to this conclusion - is this remake can justify its existence because it gets the point of the original film, never loses sight of the '84 story's moral values, and warmly embraces everything good about the first film while delivering a Footloose for this generation. Writer/director Craig Brewer's Footloose pulls off the near impossible, walking a fine line between imitation and homage, contemporizing the plot and staying true to the original while creating something more relevant to 2011.
Remaining in place from the original film is the core idea that a town, Bomont, has banned teenagers from getting together to dance. Loud music is also a no-no, per the new laws put in place in reaction to the deaths of some of the town's teenagers following a party. Into this strained little community comes Boston transplant, Ren (Kenny Wormald), a high school student who recently lost his mother to leukemia, a teenager who loves to dance and listens to his music at a level he finds enjoyable (i.e. - much louder than the legal limit). Moving in with his aunt, uncle and their two young girls, Ren experiences a case of extreme culture shock in which he finds himself living in a town that's basically outlawed fun.
The ringleader of the adults in authority is Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) who was instrumental in implementing the restrictive ordinances following the terrible death of his son (a high school senior at the time) and four of his friends in a car crash. Mourning is something Ren understands as he's dealing with the loss of his mother, but the severe reaction of an entire town to the tragic events is beyond Ren's comprehension. And, it's beyond his ability to tolerate without at least attempting to enact changes to the existing laws. Along with his new friends, Willard (Miles Teller), Rusty (Ziah Colon), and the girl who's caught his eye, Ariel (Julianne Hough), Ren tries to fight the system and get the dance ban lifted.
The Acting and the Bottom Line:
Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) chose the perfect new Ren in Kenny Wormald and the perfect new Ariel in Julianne Hough. Both are extremely talented dancers, and the dance sequences are some of the best we've seen in a contemporary dance movie. Stepping into the shoes once occupied by Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer, Wormald and Hough both bring something fresh to the characters that sets them apart from the original actors, effectively making these characters their own even while saying nearly identical lines while wearing nearly identical costumes. Neither actor is well known for feature film roles (Hough's claim to fame is Dancing With the Stars while Wormald has danced in music videos and smaller-budgeted feature films), yet both actors succeed in capturing the emotional turmoil and need to rebel these characters are going through in the film.
Remakes are really risky, and there will of course be fans of the original who will not even give this 2011 version a chance. And, I admit, I had very little hope this Footloose would be anything other than a rip-off of a well-known and well-liked '80s movie. But this Footloose is a solid dance film that should find a new, appreciative audience with a younger generation that doesn't hold the '84 film in as high esteem as audiences over 40.
Footloose stays true to the original in tone and intent, and even features some of the catchy tunes from the '80s (including Blake Shelton's take on Kenny Loggins' "Footloose"). But it is its own movie, one that's entertaining and, yes, as cheesy as it sounds, will make you want to cut loose and do a little dancing in your seat.
Footloose was directed by Craig Brewer and is rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language.
Theatrical Release: October 14, 2011