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.
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.
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