Monthly Archives

October 2011

Q & A with ALLEN GREGORY’s Joy Osmanski

This weekend is a big one for my friend Joy Osmanski. Saturday was her birthday and tonight, as in Sunday, her new show Allen Gregory premieres at 8:30 on Fox right after The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” episode.

Joy, an incredibly talented, funny, all-around amazing person, is the voice of Julie De Longpre, the adopted sister of the title character, an impossibly precocious seven-year-old boy (voiced by Jonah Hill). Allen’s two gay dads buy Julie off the Internet as if she’s an accessory and you can tell by the way she’s drawn that she’s thrilled.

You can get to know Julie and Joy a little better in this video:

Being the in-depth investigative journalist that I am, I had additional burning questions for Joy.

Pop Culture Nerd: If the De Longpres hadn’t bought Julie online, how much do you think she would’ve gone for on eBay?

Joy Osmanski: I have no doubt that Julie would have inspired a serious bidding war. Maybe for all the wrong reasons, but nonetheless.

PCN: How does she feel about fellow Cambodian baby Maddox getting adopted by Angelina and Brad while she got the De Longpres?

JO: Maddox got totally shafted.

PCN: If she rented out her forehead as a billboard, what product(s) would she advertise?

JO: She probably wouldn’t have an ethical dilemma with, say, Halliburton ad space, but if Apple came knocking, Julie would get a tattoo of Steve Jobs on her forehead.

PCN: Since this is a voiceover gig, what do you wear while working, if anything?

JO: I’ve found that I work best in a filmy negligee worn over a hair shirt. It’s not a formula, per se, but it unleashes my creative genius in a way that no one dares question. Probably because they fear me.

PCN: Oh, man, I’m going online and buying a hair shirt right now.

Thanks so much to Joy for stopping by! Check out Allen Gregory tonight and we’ll be like this:

If not, we’ll give you these faces:

Which would you prefer?


Book Review: ALREADY GONE by John Rector

This review is by contributor Eric Edwards.—PCN

While leaving a bar one night, newly married university teacher Jake Reese is jumped from behind, but instead of taking his wallet, his attackers cut off his ring finger along with his wedding band. He wakes up in the hospital with his wife and his best friend by his side, along with the cops. Jake tries to write it off as a simple assault and robbery, but the detective in charge isn’t buying it, and Jake’s straight-laced new bride suddenly needs time to think a few things over. It seems Jake has a criminal past which may have come back to haunt him. With one phone call, he knows he can make all his troubles disappear, as well as get the answers he needs, but it will surely cost him the life he has struggled so hard to rebuild.

Rector knows how to keep the action moving and the tension building to keep the reader guessing what will happen next, but he falters whenever it comes to giving Jake any kind of street savvy. This would be fine if Jake’s crimes from his youth don’t get mentioned so often. So limited are his basic survival instincts, and so few specifics are given about what Jake did that landed him in juvenile detention, one can almost conclude he simply got caught passing notes during class at a very strict private school. Luckily, this doesn’t completely derail the story because the author keeps throwing in twists. Jake’s bewilderment about his situation is shared by the reader, resulting in a quick read that will keep you guessing right up to the end.

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from IndieBound


Winners of Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS selected the following names:

  • Nicki
  • Michael

Congrats! You both get a copy of the book, courtesy of Doubleday. Please use this contact form to let me know where the publisher should ship it. No P.O. boxes. If I don’t hear from you before Friday, Oct. 28 at noon PST, alternate name(s) will be chosen.

Thank you all for entering, and for sharing the amazing feats of magic you’ve encountered.


VENGEANCE Blog Tour: U IS FOR UNDERTOW Review + Excerpt of V

We’re now in the final week of Sue Grafton’s Vengeance Blog Tour, leading up to the November 14 release of her latest, V is for Vengeance. Ten bloggers are reviewing the last five titles in the Kinsey Millhone series, and I’m happy to reintroduce U is for Undertow to you by re-posting my review from two years ago when the book first came out.

After the review, you’ll get the ninth excerpt from V as part of the sneak peek revealed on the tour, plus links to where you can read the other excerpts and to a contest with a generous prize package from Penguin.



U is for Undertow Review

I’ve been reading Sue Grafton for a quarter century now, starting in high school when I found her books in the school library (I spent a lot of time there). I devoured the A through C Kinsey Millhone adventures like an ex-con having his first meal on the outside. Over the years the books were uneven, which is understandable with a long series, but I kept reading out of obligation, as if Kinsey had become an old friend whose imperfections I accepted. I listened to her tales even if she rambled a little.

I was thrilled, then, to find her latest adventure, U is for Undertow, utterly captivating. After only a few pages, I knew Kinsey was back on track and I could dive in out of pure pleasure.

The case begins when Kinsey is approached by a young man named Michael Sutton who suddenly remembers something that happened when he was six years old. At the time, Sutton attached no significance to the incident but, after reading a newspaper article about an unsolved 21-year-old kidnapping of a little girl, he believes what he saw were two people burying the child.

After Sutton hires Kinsey to investigate, the story moves back and forth between 1988 (Kinsey’s present) and 1967, when the kidnapping occurred. Grafton deftly juggles multiple POVs; besides Kinsey’s, the author doles out pieces of the puzzle from the perspectives of several characters who are directly and tangentially involved in the crime, painting a full-bodied portrait of each. The plot turns in unpredictable directions and though it might be obvious early on who did it, Grafton keeps you guessing about the why.

The case is complex enough to keep Kinsey busy, but she’s also grappling with personal issues after making startling discoveries about her past which destroy her long-held perceptions of certain family members. Because the books are told in first person and I’ve sided with Kinsey for years against the relatives who abandoned her as a child, these new revelations threw me for a loop as well. Kinsey won’t be able to change overnight but at the end of this book, she takes brave, hopeful steps towards what could be an extreme life makeover.

Nerd verdict: Strong Undertow will pull you in

Continuing down the alphabet, below is the ninth excerpt from V is for Vengeance. You might first want to read part 1 at Lesa’s Book Critiques, pt. 2 at Jen’s Book Thoughts, pt. 3 at Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White, pt. 4 at Linus’s Blanket, pt. 5 at Devourer of Books, pt. 6 at Kittling: Books, pt. 7 at BermudaOnion’s Weblog, and pt. 8 at Jenn’s Bookshelves. Reviews of books Q through T can also be found there. On Thursday, drop by Booking Mama, who will wrap up the blog tour with another review of U and the final V excerpt.

If you leave a comment on all ten participating blogs, you’ll be eligible to win one of three sets of the Q through U books, plus a copy of V is for Vengeance, courtesy of Penguin. US/Canada residents only.

V: Excerpt #9

The younger woman pressed the down button repeatedly as though to speed the arrival of the car. The elevator doors opened and two pregnant mothers emerged side by side, pushing strollers ahead of them. The younger woman pushed her way past them, and one turned to look at her with annoyance. Another shopper approached in haste and called out, not wanting the doors to close before she had a chance to get on. One of the pregnant women reached back and put a hand against the doors to stall their closure. The shopper smiled gratefully as she stepped in, murmuring her thanks. The elevator doors closed as the two pregnant women ambled off toward infant and children’s wear.

I made a beeline for the fire exit, laid one hip against the push-bar, and entered the stairwell. I went down as rapidly as possible, dropping two steps at a time while I calculated the younger woman’s escape alternatives. She could take the elevator as far as the second floor or the first, or proceed all the way down to the basement level, where the parking garage was located. If she realized I was on her tail, she might leave the elevator on 2 and take the escalator up to 3 again, in hopes of throwing me off course. On the other hand, she probably wanted to get out of the store as quickly as possible, which made the first floor the obvious choice. Once she slipped into the busy mall, she could doff the white linen jacket and the red beret and hurry away, knowing there was no chance I’d reach the exit doors before she’d been swal­lowed into the crowd. I reached the second-floor landing and used the railing as a pivot as I took the next flight down, muffled footsteps echo­ing as I ran. Another possibility occurred to me as I galloped down the stairs. If she’d arrived at the store with an eye to a leisurely day of thieving, she might have wanted her car handy, with a trunk capacious enough to accommodate multiple shopping bags stuffed with stolen goods. How many times had I seen shoppers dropping bags off at the car before returning to the mall?

I rounded the landing at the first floor and bypassed the exit as I sped toward the parking garage. I took the final short flight of stairs in two leaps. The door at the bottom opened into a small carpeted lobby with offices visible behind a set of glass doors. The exit doors slid open as I reached them and then politely closed behind me. I paused to take in the vast underground garage. I was standing in a dead-end bay, circumscribed by a short loop of parking spaces coveted because of their proximity to the store’s entrance. I’ve watched cars circle end­lessly, hoping to snag one of these treasured slots. Now all of them were taken and there was no sign of backing-out taillights to suggest a vacancy coming due.

V may stand for vengeance in Kinsey’s world, but what does the letter represent in your life right now? Leave a comment and you might win a set of books!

For more information on Sue and her upcoming in-person tour, visit her Facebook page.

Pre-order V from Amazon| Pre-order from IndieBound



I’ll admit it: If I’d known ahead of time this movie (limited release, Oct. 21) is about a young woman struggling to survive her cult experience, I probably wouldn’t have rushed out to the screening sponsored by the L.A. Times. Elizabeth Olsen (the famous twins’ younger sister) stars as the titular character, who escapes from a cult in the Catskills at the beginning of the movie and goes to live with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law, Ted (Hugh Dancy). Martha doesn’t want to talk about the years she fell out of touch with Lucy and insists she’s fine, that she was simply living with a boyfriend who lied to her and now it’s over. But of course it’s not, as we see the damage gradually emerging and threatening her ability to move on.

Olsen has received lots of buzz since the movie premiered at Sundance and she deserves it. She seems effortless and completely guileless in a role that’s difficult to pull off due to Martha’s capriciousness. The movie incorporates flashbacks to show what happened to her (writer/director Sean Durkin, who did Q & A afterward, said they’re not really flashbacks since Martha’s past and present are all jumbled together in her mind) but it’s always clear when each scene took place because there was much more innocence in Martha’s face before she was ruined by Patrick (John Hawkes), the cult leader. The performance is more striking considering that when Olsen came out (more like she bounced/skipped out) to do the Q &A, she was bubbly and smart and confident, not the first person you’d think of to play a mousy girl in search of herself.

Paulson is also impressive as the sister who desperately wants to know Martha’s secrets but is scared of driving her away again. Lucy’s benign smiles can’t cover up the frustration she feels from being unable to communicate with Martha. Hawkes, after Winter’s Bone, risks being Hollywood’s go-to creepy dude, but he’s so good and oddly charismatic that it’s hard to imagine someone else being more effective.

Durkin can be commended for eliciting strong performances from the cast and for using restraint, allowing the audience to fill in the more disturbing aspects. But his pacing is contemplative since most of the conflicts are internal. Sometimes the score is a little too heavy-handed, as if it were shouting, “Creepy scene alert!” through a bullhorn. And the ambiguous ending…well, it’s hardly satisfying but it’ll certainly stimulate discussions afterward.

Nerd verdict: Finely acted film that May anger and/or disturb you

Photo: Jody Lee Lipes/Twentieth Century Fox


Book Giveaway: THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

I’m thrilled to announce that the generous folks over at Doubleday have allowed me to give away two copies of Erin Morgenstern‘s The Night Circus. You’ve probably heard about this novel for months since it arrived with a caravan-load of buzz, being compared to the Harry Potter and Twilight books. Helping that comparison along is the fact that Summit Entertainment, the production company behind the Twilight movies, have snapped up rights for a movie adaptation that David Heyman, who produced the Potter movies, might produce.

I’ll post a review later but wanted to give you the chance to win these two copies now. If that gorgeous cover alone doesn’t entice you, here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Intrigued? Enter by leaving a comment about the coolest magic trick or circus act you’ve ever seen. Giveaway ends next Tuesday, October 25 at 5 p.m. PST. US/Canada only, per publisher’s request. Two winners will be randomly selected and have 48 hours to claim the prize before alternate names are chosen.

Let’s hear your magical stories!


First Tintin Movie News Are In!

I was thrilled to hear over the weekend that most of the first reviews for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secrets of Unicorn are not only positive, but overwhelmingly so! Many of you know the Tintin books are the first titles I remember reading on my own as a kid and absolutely loving. Despite the fact this movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, I was concerned it wouldn’t deliver the sense of wonder I felt experiencing Hergé’s work. The trailers didn’t quite win me over, either.

But the reviews coming in from Europe, where the movie will open later this month (December 21 in the U.S.—argghhh!) are comparing it to the Indiana Jones movies, using descriptors like “visually splendid,””gorgeous,” “stunning,” “lavish,” and “breathless.” The Hollywood Reporter says it’s “a good ol’ fashioned adventure flick that harkens back to [Spielberg]’s action-packed, tongue-in-cheek swashbucklers of the 1980s.” It’s almost enough to make me hop on a plane to France so I can see it two months before its stateside release.

If interested, you can read full reviews from The Sun (UK), The Hollywood Reporter, and HitFix.

Anyone else as excited as I am?


Book Review: KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT by Colin Cotterill

Originally reviewed for Shelf Awareness, published here with permission.

Colin Cotterill, author of the Dr. Siri series set in 1970s Laos, introduces a new sleuth in Killed at the Whim of a Hat. Though Jimm Juree lives in present day, she may feel like she’s in backwater country. Jimm is a Thai crime reporter and rising star for the Chiang Mai Mail until she’s forced to move with her family to a rural village. Life mainly consists of gutting fish and kitchen duties until an old Volkswagen van is discovered buried under a farmer’s land with a pair of skeletons inside, one wearing a hat. Soon after, an abbot is found brutally murdered at a nearby temple, with an incongruous, orange hat perched on his head. Seeing a chance to recapture her former journalistic glory, Jimm jumps on the stories and gets help from unexpected sources on her way to solving the mysteries.

The main selling points are the characters and Cotterill’s humor. Jimm observes that a red herring is “a good source of Vitamin D,” and encounters dogs so ugly that they’re like “Fellini dog extras.” The title is based on, and each chapter is headed by, an actual George W. Bush maloprism, and the running joke is tangentially relevant to the story.

Jimm and her family are a wacky bunch, with entertaining interactions and dinner conversations. They have reasons for being eccentric and their collective heart gently reveals itself at unexpected moments. The resolution to the abbot’s murder is a bit odd, but one can argue that this unconventional novel and its inhabitants deserve nothing less.

Nerd verdict: Whimsy with substance

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from an indie bookstore

What are you reading this weekend?



I took advantage of the long Columbus Day weekend to park myself on the couch and catch up on some reading, which was divine. Well, except for the part when I sat too long and my left arm felt numb and I feared I was having a stroke. Anyway, below are mini reviews.

Shock Wave by John Sandford

Someone in a Minnesota town doesn’t want a new PyeMart superstore built so he/she blows up a conference room at the store’s headquarters and then its construction site. Virgil Flowers, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, gets sent in to investigate two possible groups—local business owners who’d be ruined by the store, and fishermen who fear PyeMart would pollute the river. The heat intensifies when more bombs go off, including one that’s too close to Virgil.

This is my first time reading a Flowers book and I found him engaging. He’s a surfer dude who’s not only offbeat in his personal style, he uses unusual methods to solve the case. He does market research to find suspects, sending out a survey to a cross section of townies asking them who they think the bomber is. The dialogue is often funny, which is especially welcome since the crimes are brutal and cause multiple fatalities. The revelation of the bomber’s identity didn’t cause any shock waves, but the book is a quick, entertaining read. Nerd verdict: Catch the Wave.

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from IndieBound

Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel

Copenhagen detective Louise Rick is called in when a woman is savagely raped after a date with a man she met online. Louise soon discovers he’s a serial rapist, preying on lonely women on matchmaking websites while remaining maddeningly elusive. He leaves behind no physical evidence and the victims can’t provide a good description for the police to issue a public warning. The case becomes even more complicated when one of the rapist’s victims dies and Louise’s best friend Camilla starts dating a man she found online.

Louise seems capable enough for the most part—this also applies to Blaedel—and the procedural moves along at a decent clip until the anticlimactic denouement falls apart from too many holes. Louise doesn’t take certain actions that a good police officer, or any reasonable civilian, would. It seems that some things occur because they’re necessary to move the plot forward but aren’t supported by logic. Some of the best thrillers I’ve read this year are Scandinavian—I highly recommend Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes and Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist—but this one, an international bestseller that’s second in the Louise Rick series and first to hit our shores, doesn’t hold up. Nerd verdict: Dropped Call.

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from IndieBound

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

What? I know this isn’t crime fic, but I’m a multifaceted person with many interests, one of which is the art of writing letters. I’m old-school that way and enjoy sending handwritten notes whenever I can. I go into stationery stores to fondle Crane paper and drool over fountain pens. But enough about that.

This novel is divided in two parts. The first takes place in the 1960s, with Jennifer, a young married woman, waking up in a hospital with injuries and amnesia. When she goes home, she finds passionate love letters, signed simply “B,” hidden in her belongings. Though her husband seems like a nice man, she knows instinctively he didn’t write the letters and she sets out to find the person who did. She unearths some answers, but they’re not happy ones. Cut to 2003, when a young journalist named Ellie finds a file full of the same letters in the archives of the newspaper where she works. With her job and love life on uncertain ground, she decides she must solve the mystery of what happened to the lovers.

Usually, if I get a whiff of a cheesy romance, I’m outta there, burning skidmarks in the parking lot. But if a story is skillfully told and a relationship depicted well, I’m all in. Moyes writes the love letters with just the right touch of ardor without going over the top into eye-rolling territory. B’s letters read like a man wrote them, with words conveying more emotion than any emoticon ever could. Moyes makes this clear when Ellie gets texts from her married lover and spends hours obsessing over what “Later x” really means.

The author somehow manages to make me not condemn the adulterous Jennifer—no small feat—without conveniently portraying her husband as a creep. Ellie’s a bit frustrating, though, with her neediness toward a married lover who is a jerk. But she redeems herself, and the ending carries enough emotional weight that all is forgiven. Nerd verdict: Emotional Letter.

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from IndieBound

What are you reading?


Book Review: THE AFFAIR by Lee Child

If you’re looking for something good to read this weekend, check out the new Jack Reacher. My review originally ran in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with remission. Happy Friday!

Ever since Jack Reacher hitchhiked his way into crime fiction in the 1997 novel Killing Floor, many fans have wondered why he became a drifter in his mid-30s after spending his entire life—born and raised—in the U.S. Army. The Affair finally details the case that prompted Reacher to leave the military police behind, if not his crime-fighting career.

It’s 1997 and Reacher is sent undercover to Carter Crossing, Miss., to shadow the official army investigator in the case of a civilian woman murdered near a base. Reacher’s role is to observe and make sure the situation is handled properly because of tension between the soldiers and the townies. Reacher realizes he’s on a doomed mission when he discovers there have been three similar murders in the area and the army is ordering him to destroy evidence. He gets help from the lead investigator, Duncan Munro, and the beautiful sheriff, Elizabeth Deveraux, but can he trust either one?

The Affair is written in first person so readers really get a glimpse of how Reacher’s mind works (some of the novels are written in third, which has its advantages, but this reviewer prefers the more personal treatment). The younger MP Reacher is not much different from the drifter we already know and love; i.e., he kicks butt and has sex. Readers are only reminded of the story’s setting when VHS tapes and film cameras are mentioned. It’s amusing to see the origin of Reacher’s later traveling style when he goes undercover as a bum and learns he doesn’t need anything more than a foldable toothbrush. Child also includes references to Reacher’s brother, Joe, that will lead up to the beginning of Killing Floor. Newbies can start their affair with Reacher with this latest installment, but those who have read the series may find poignancy in these foreshadowing allusions.

Nerd verdict: Reach for The Affair

Buy it now from Amazon| Buy from an indie bookstore

What are you reading?



If you’re not into politics, don’t let it deter you from seeing The Ides of March (out October 7), based on Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North. Despite its setting, it’s not really about politics. It’s more about a young idealistic man whose beliefs are tested in a cutthroat world, in effect asking the viewer, What would you do and how long would you last?

Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a hotshot campaign secretary for presidential candidate Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney, who also directed and co-wrote with Grant Heslov and Willimon). Myers is very good at what he does, making the governor seem like America’s last hope for salvation. But it’s not just spin. He can only sell it if he believes it, and he believes in Morris wholeheartedly. The political game being what it is, however, Myers soon encounters complications with an intern (Even Rachel Wood), the campaign manager of a rival candidate (Paul Giamatti), his own campaign manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an aggressive reporter (Marisa Tomei), and eventually Morris. We see Myers’s struggle to hang on to his morals and the question isn’t whether he has what it takes to rise in the ranks, it’s whether or not we want him to.

Gosling continues his hot streak after Crazy Stupid Love and Drive with another riveting performance. You can see his gradual transformation from the bright-eyed Myers at the beginning of the movie to the one at the end, whose eyes are noticeably harder. Gosling is one of the few young actors who can go toe to toe with Clooney in a pivotal scene and make the audience wonder who would come out on top. And while movie stars can sometimes bring too much baggage to a role, Clooney’s charm adds to the governor’s allure and keeps us guessing about whether he’s as perfect as he seems.

The supporting cast members turn in solid performances  but that’s no surprise from Giamatti, Tomei, Hoffman, and Jeffrey Wright. It helps that they have a sharp script to work with. Wood is too affected to measure up to everyone else, but even that doesn’t detract much from Clooney’s smart, tense drama.

Nerd verdict: Ides should prepare for March to the Oscars

Photos: Saeed Adyani


Movie Review: FOOTLOOSE

Wormald and Hough

When I posted on Facebook that I had gone to a Paramount screening of the Footloose remake (out October 14), one of my friends jokingly threatened to disown me because I was apparently being disloyal to the original. Well, the 1984 movie was enjoyable but it wasn’t great (let’s face it—the soundtrack elevated it) so I was willing to keep an open mind.

My conclusion was that it didn’t need to be remade because this version doesn’t improve or change the story in any significant way. All the major plot points are intact, and it’s still a corndog movie minus the advantage of being first.

If you’re, oh, under twenty years old and have never been exposed to Footloose, the very slim plotline involves Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) coming down from Boston after his mother dies to live with his Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon) in a small town called Bomont. Much to his chagrin, he finds that the law there doesn’t allow public dancing since five teens were killed three years earlier after a night of dancing and drinking. Ren locks horns with Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), a staunch supporter of the law since his son was one of the kids who died. But the reverend’s daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough), has much more amorous feelings toward Ren and together they set out to challenge the law so they can have their dance.

Andie McDowell (as the reverend's wife), Wormald, and Quaid

Though I never looked at Kevin Bacon in the original and thought, “Wow, this is a great actor who’s still going to be relevant in thirty years,” he infused Ren with an innate sense of confidence and mischief while Wormald seems to be only playing at cockiness. It’s obvious he was hired more for his dancing than acting skills, and he does okay, but that’s not enough when he’s the lead. He acquits himself better than Hough, though, who looks gorgeous but doesn’t yet have the depth of talent to convey Ariel’s little-girl-lost quality. She comes across reckless and petulant instead of as someone in pain who’s overcompensating. Then again, the script (by Dean Pitchford and Craig Brewer, who also directed) doesn’t allow her to be very sympathetic. And Quaid, famous for his roguish screen presence, is all wrong as the uptight reverend.

Teller and Wormald

If there’s a reason to see this movie, it’s Miles Teller, who steals every scene as Ren’s friend Willard, the boy who can’t dance who was first played by the late Chris Penn (Teller even resembles him a little). Teller is funny and full of crackling energy, which is especially amazing if you saw him in Rabbit Hole, where he imbued an intensely dramatic role with grace and stillness.

And the music—when I heard the opening beats and guitar riffs of the title track, with Blake Shelton stepping in for Kenny Loggins, my feet did cut loose a little under my seat. But this version sounds almost exactly the same as the other, which again begs the question of why it was remade. One of the songs, “Holding Out for a Hero,” was reinvented but not in a good way. While Bonnie Tyler sang it as an anthemic number, Ella Mae Bowen turns it into a treacly ballad that’s almost unrecognizable. By the time “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” comes on, with Jana Kramer covering Deniece Williams’s hit, the soundtrack had swung back to sounding familiar, but it also makes you want to just go back and listen to the original.

Nerd verdict: Footloose doesn’t cut it

Photos: Paramount