I saw the original Footloose in movie theaters. In fact I watched it in one of the last grand movie theaters – although by then it was in a state of disrepair – in Cleveland. Feel free to call me old.
That was almost 30 years ago and I left this week’s remake of the movie that some now consider a classic (do not lump me into that category) with the same feeling.
Footloose is maddeningly uneven and yet oddly joyous at the same time.
Back then critics – and they numbered many – couldn’t figure out the movie’s popularity. The story of city boy forced to movie to a small town and contend with being the new kid, but also with the fact that dancing within the town’s boundaries is illegal was a bit out there. However, a rocking soundtrack with a beat that includes more than a few memorable tunes helped. For the record, the ‘’80s were the era of style over substance. After all TV shows such as Miami Vice were created on premises such as “MTV cops.”
Movies such as Footloose and Flashdance fall into that category, but somehow they found an audience with teens of the time who reveled in all things MTV. Life was a soundtrack now; why shouldn’t movies be?
Most who grew up in the era can agree that the era was known for superficiality.
That’s why seeing a director better known for his jagged edges rather than smooth ones remaking this one proves a bit jarring. Craig Brewster is best known for the story of a pimp-turned-rapper in Hustle and Flow and the efforts of a religious loaner to reform a promiscuous young woman in Black Snake Moan. Footloose feels tame by comparison. Although he attempts to add a bit of darkness to this remake and turn it into a celebration, his presence behind the camera still feels odd.
Ultimately, it’s best to just do what yours truly did some 27 years ago – roll or dance with it. Relative newcomer Kenny Wormald (Clerks II) takes the role that made Kevin Bacon famous. As Ren McCormack he’s that new kid who likes his Quiet Riot loud (Is there any other way?) and he likes to dance whenever possible.
That’s not the case for the Boston lad in Bomont, Ga., a town that imposed a stiff curfew and outlawed dancing in most of its forms for minors after five of its teenagers, including the local minister’s son dies in a car crash after a party.
Dennis Quaid stars as that religious man, Shaw Moore, who proposed the laws and got them passed. In his zeal he never bothers to notice the impact that the accident has on his daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough, best known for hoofing it up on TV’s Dancing With the Stars). She’s evolved into the local bad girl, attracted to a thug, until McCormick comes along.
As it was then, Footloose is a film more about fitting in and finding your spot in the world than anything else. Does it achieve that? Sure, but it didn’t engage me for much of the process.
Wormald is likeable enough. Hough’s acting efforts feel strained, but surprisingly, so do Quaid’s. Normally one of my favorite performers, he seems so hell bent to divorce himself from John Lithgow’s fire-and-brimstone performance in the original that he comes across as too understated.
Brewster, who wrote the screenplay as well, makes some distinct changes, one that many fans of the original would likely consider major. Ultimately it works, but it also benefits another member in the cast. Character actor Ray McKinnon, who portrays, Ren’s uncle has a recognizable face in film and television. He’s given plenty of moments in Footloose and takes advantage of every one of them.
As for the reason the first Footloose hit so big back then? It was the music. It starred then and although I can’t say that some of the reworked tunes will have an impact this time around, there are plenty of toe-tapping tunes, many with a country twinge. Whether they help a new generation move to them and to Footloose is another story.
Director: Craig Brewster
Cast: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie McDowell
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Rated: PG-13 (teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language)
Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and show times at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com