**This is a repost of Monday’s advance review of Footloose.
Is it possible that Hollywood has finally figured out how to remake movies properly? I railed long and hard against the remake of Footloose when it was announced. The 80s original is a tad dated but still damn entertaining with Kenny Loggins greatest song (in this reporters humble opinion), how dare Hollywood decide to remake it! After a recent sneak peek I have a lot of crow to digest…because I fell in love with this remake. Director Craig Brewer crafted a delightful remake that pays respectful tribute to the original, while explaining away some of the original’s films flaws.
Ren McCormick (Kenny Wormald) moves to Bomont, Georgia after the death of his mother. Unfortunately he enters the town three years of a tragedy that took the lives of five high school seniors and resulted in a law banning public dancing. As the town divides between the adults and the teens, Ren and rebellious preacher’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) decide to challenge the law and fight for the right to dance!
Director Craig Brewer expertly blends what fans love about the original Footloose with his own creation, culminating in a movie that feels wholly original and yet holding the same spirit and fun of the original. The new version tells not only about the town of Bomont and their ban on dancing, but also about life in a small town and the problems that come from religion being used to promote safety. At times the movie feels like it’s conveying a political message that religion gets in the way and clouds public policy but it never feels condescending. The town elders, so to speak, truly care about their children and after losing five of them at once, Bomont will do anything to keep them safe.
Fans of the original will be delighted at how much is retained from the original film. Certain scenes are lifted verbatim, like Ren teaching the gangly Willard (Miles Teller) how to dance, but there’s also an added story that explains some of the more unanswered questions about the movie. The 80s original feels dated now because of the spontaneous dance sequences and the fact that everyone appeared to be a professional dancer knowing the latest moves despite music and dance being outlawed. In this film the film opens with the accident that changed the town and explains the everyone knows the newest moves by dancing illegally at the local drive-in and bootlegging music. It’s a small part of the film but emphasizes how Brewer built on the established territory. This is also seen in how the original music is retained, despite being sung by modern singers. Footloose literally plays to both new and old audiences.
Even the characters get more story built onto them, especially Ren’s uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon). In the original Ren’s uncle was another pawn in the town who didn’t like Ren stirring the pot. In this version Wes is a father figure to Ren, sticking up for him when it seems nobody else will. McKinnon and newcomer Kenny Wormald have fantastic chemistry and it was nice to see Brewer give Ren one adult who believed in him, instead of putting in a town where all adults were evil. Brewer also eliminates Ren’s mother from this film, although she wasn’t a major player in the original. The death of his mother allows Wormald to convey a lot more emotion, and connect him more fully to Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) as both are coping with loss in their own way.
The rest of the cast is solid and well-done, especially considering the fact that this could have been a Zac Efron vehicle. Wormald is an amazing dancer and has such a genuine feel in Kevin Bacon’s iconic role. His accent isn’t as bad as the trailers make it out and he is such a fresh presence in this movie. Julianne Hough also shows she’s got chops as the rebellious Ariel. I wasn’t impressed with Hough in other films but she makes the dancing look effortless and there’s a stronger connection and complexity to her than Lori Singer in the original. She’s a young girl who wants desperately out of the town and out of the role of the preacher’s daughter, yet she also seems to feel dead inside like her brother.
The true scene stealer though is Miles Teller as Willard. I adored Chris Penn in the original but Teller steals the show and puts himself on par with Penn’s performance. Teller is like a nicer, sweeter Shia LaBeouf, only funnier! Every line is hilarious and not solely based on his role as the loveable redneck. His gangly dance montage (still done to “Let’s Hear It for the Boy) will have you laughing long after it’s over.
While Brewer is applauded for fleshing out so much of the movie and the teenagers there are a few flaws with the film. Dennis Quaid seems lost in this film as Reverend Moore. John Lithgow was so endearing but here Quaid just seems to fluctuate between grumpy old dad and jerk. A lot of this is due to how downsized his role is, he’s usually preaching or just standing around looking irritated, but he just becomes one of the many town elders oppressing the teens. Also the element of all the adults suppressing the teen’s reading and music is eliminated. In the original books are burned and the town goes overboard with protecting the kids, whereas here it’s just dancing and music. I understand the book burning angle has been done in other films but it made Bomont seem even more dangerous and outdated compared to the remake where they just seemed to hate music.
The nitpicks above really didn’t hinder my ability to fall in love again with Footloose. I railed against this movie for months because of my love of the original, yet I left the theater with a smile on my face. Watch this back to back with the original and you’ll find something to love about both!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.