With Craig Brewer’s updated version of 80’s classic ‘Footloose’, we are treated to yet another episode in the continuous adventures of ‘remakes we never really wanted’. While this new version does try to update the formula to fit in this era, its story and message feels extremely outdated and is handled far too seriously. What is lacking most is a feeling of genuine fun leaving only a handful of pretty people showing some mildly impressive moves.
The story of “Footloose” pretty much follows the original, with only a few alterations. Rebellious teen Ren McCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald), exchanges his Boston city life with the quaint and tranquil surroundings of old fashioned Bomont, Tennessee. After a tragic car accident, killing several teens who came back from a dance party, local Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) has made sure that the city council abolished all forms of public dancing and controversial music. What follows is your typical teen movement, against an uptight community, whilst winning over the Reverend’s out-of-control teenage daughter.
The basic premise of the movie is not different from its predecessor, but some changes have been made to update the feature. Most notable is the level of drama – a lot of time is spent showing the viewer how deeply the community is hurt by the tragic car accident. Also, the addition of a different, more dramatic backstory of Ren (in this version, he lost his mother to cancer), shows that Brewer is trying something different.
These changes are all fine and dandy, but it adds a lot more seriousness to the movie which it surely didn’t need. Gone is the immense sense of camp and fun that makes the original movie still appealing. This is painfully shown in the opening scenes where Dennis Quaid’s monologue gets way too heavy. The result is that the fun spirited nature of the original is nowhere to be seen and shows that the message is outdated from the start. The idea of a conservative town banning music is a wonderful premise for a movie… in the 80’s. But now the story is just unbelievable and, at times, frankly ridiculous.
At the same time, this version still tries to give a proper tribute which makes the entire endeavour feel dishonest. Kevin Bacon was a perfect rebel in the original and made the role of Ren McCormack his own. The new Ren seems like he came right out of “Grease” spin-off but never seems that rebellious to begin with. He frankly looks too nice and polite, and the groovy hairdo doesn’t change the fact that he ran out of style decades ago.
The same can be said about side-kick Willard, played by Miles Teller. He really tries his best to look and talk like the late Chris Penn of the original, but he feels more like Larry the Cableguy in this timeline. Love interest Ariel (Julianne Hough) looks like a better fit in this, but she switches all too rapidly between quirky, innocent, suicidal and skank all within a matter of minutes, making her role extremely uneven.
The music and dancing suffer the same fate. While most of the original music is intact, this version sees it necessary to give them very unneeded updates. The slow version of ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ is simply blasphemy and made me want to scream “WHY?” to the big screen. At least the original ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’, makes an appearance in one of the few fun scenes involving Willard getting dance lessons from Ren’s nieces. Of course, none of these kids would know the song in real life, but I will choose to ignore that.
When it comes to dancing, one has to admit that the stars show some great moves and truly have skills. The updated ‘angry dance’ gives the viewer a great performance by Wormald and gives us easily the most memorable dance scene in the movie. But yet again, the director feels the need to switch from old fashioned rock & roll to urban hiphop at an uneven pace. This is the final proof that the movie tries to put an 80’s flick in the 21st century with disappointing results.
It is hard to tell what kind of audience will get the most out of this update. Fans of the original will be disappointed by the lack of fun and all too serious approach. Newcomers to this title will enjoy the pretty dancing people, but will yawn at the premise which falls flat right after take-off. Fans of dance movies will get their kick out of some scenes, but will find them lacking in quantity. All this makes me come to the sad conclusion that while the director truly shows love for the original, the end result just is unnecessary. Nobody was really waiting for this.