Movie review: Footloose
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Re-make, Comedy, Drama, Music
Opens locally Friday, October 14th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell, Miles Teller
Directed by Craig Brewer (Black Snake Moan, Hustle & Flow)
I’m assuming that everybody is familiar with the 1984 classic “Footloose” starring the young Kevin Bacon. If you haven’t seen the film, or can’t remember it, chances are you are at least aware of it. At the very least, you are probably familiar with the hit song of the same name, by Kenny Loggins. Now, I’m not a big fan of re-making classic films…why can’t younger audiences re-discover classic films on their own, like we had to with black & white films? That aside, considering all the movies that could be re-made, why choose “Footloose”?
The answer of course, in the “Glee” era of pop culture, is that dance is hot. The original “Footloose” was a classic film not only because it featured several young break-out performances, but the story of repressed teenagers rebelling against the establishment is a universal theme. In the original, Kevin Bacon was Ren McCormack, a rebellious youth who comes to the southern town of Bomont, where dancing has been outlawed. John Lithgow played the strict minister who had created the law, to prevent the town’s youth from degenerating into evil and sin, things that he saw brought on by rock and roll music, dance, and under-age drinking. The preacher’s daughter (Lori Singer) was everything her father had feared, a rule-breaking rebel herself, and when she is inspired by Ren’s dancing, they lead an uprising to show that dancing should be allowed, and that it represents life, living, and freedom of expression, not sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
At it’s heart, the original “Footloose” was so popular because of what it represented…kids fighting for the ability to be free. It was about letting go…in the physical sense, as well as the mental and spiritual sense. Dancing was a metaphor for acceptance, to go “footloose” meant to break free from what was restricting you, whether that be your own lack of confidence, others around you, or your personal spiritual beliefs.
So we arrive at the new version of “Footloose,” and I must admit, it is an effective re-make. The story updates itself to modern times, but is a true re-make in the sense that many of the scenes are lifted directly from the original. The plot is basically the same, and much of the dialogue is the same as well. Kenny Wormald steps into the role of Ren, with Julianne Hough (from TV’s “Dancing With the Stars”) stepping into the preacher’s daughter role. Dennis Quaid is the father/preacher, and does justice to the role originated by John Lithgow, although Lithgow came across more as a concerned dad…Quaid plays the role with just a hint of villainy.
Gone is the cheesy 80’s dialogue and in it’s place is a lot of clever humor. In fact, this new “Footloose” is at times laugh-out-loud funny, and doesn’t take itself nearly as serious as the original. Miles Teller is a break-out actor, who shined in last year’s “Rabbit Hole” but here shows real comedic chops. I’d imagine we’ll be seeing more of him down the road. And speaking of acting, we get some surprisingly good performances from Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough…Hough, in particular is a knock-out who balances her sex appeal with a vulnerability that is quite impressive for a newer actress. The two have a chemistry that carries the film and adds a bit of unexpected depth to the roles.
So as skeptical as I was going into “Footloose,” I realized the appeal of the original, and how this story of breaking free and cutting loose is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. When the kids dance, they are living. Parents are not treated as villains, but as concerned parents who may actually know better in some cases. Of course, neither total repression or complete anarchy is the solution…but like a dance, the child and the adult must coordinate their steps so that both are able to exist in harmony and in rhythm with one another.
Many of the original songs on the “Footloose” soundtrack are re-made for the new film, including the title track, which is covered by country star Blake Shelton. His re-make of this classic song symbolizes the re-make of this classic film…it’s a very familiar tune that gets you moving, but in the end you realize that you may have just been better off listening to the original.
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