Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough
Director: Craig Brewer
Forget the leg warmers and mall bangs — the ’80s have left the building and taken Kevin Bacon with them. The creators of this refreshed hit would probably admit there was no need to remake “Footloose,” but then is there ever a solid justification for remaking a movie, except to cash in with a new audience?
There is every expectation that will happen here, especially with the drawing power of “Dancing with the Stars” dance pro Julianne Hough in the female lead as Ariel, the proverbial preacher’s daughter gone bad. Her co-star, Kenny Wormald in the role Bacon owned until this past weekend, is less known except to maybe Justin Timberlake fans. At one time, Wormald was one of his back up dancers.
Almost a scene-for-scene adaptation from the original movie, there is a nod to the present day with artists like Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green on the bill. Also, a hip-hop vibe has replaced the Harlem Shuffle with some poppin’ and lockin’.
If you remember the story — and admit it, you saw the 1984 version — city boy Ren MacCormack (Wormald) comes to the little southern Georgia town of Bomont from Boston after his mother dies (one of the few changes in this update) to live with relatives played by Ray McKinnon and Kim Dickens (familiar to audiences from “The Blind Side”). He arrives to find community leaders have outlawed basically everything that teenagers find fun to do in an effort to protect them from themselves.
The motivation behind this police state is the death of five teenagers several years before Ren’s arrival in a fiery car crash coming home late one night from a dance. So now a curfew is strictly enforced, as are bans on loud music and public dancing.
The leader of this no-fun zone is the righteous Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), who has personal reasons behind his actions. He also believes the arrogant Ren is a corrupting influence on his daughter, but she’s doing a good enough job of that on her own by dating an older boy and acting out in regrettable ways to get attention.For a movie that revolves around dancing, my biggest complaint is director Craig Brewer’s camera moves. If the kids are dancing their toes off, I don’t really want to see extreme close ups. Brewer’s inexplicable choices in no way favor a movie built around dancing, and neither does the slam editing that cuts away too quickly from the dancers.
Wormald, a better dancer than actor, must deal with a pretty bad “Bah-ston” accent but acquits himself with mad dance moves. And the verdict is still out on whether Hough, as a dancer, can convert her talent and popularity into an acting career. For a start, neither could have done better than a movie that requires them to dance more than they talk, but both have a likeability that should propel them into future film roles.
While the adults, including Quaid and Andie McDowall (stuck in the do-nothing role of the reverend’s wife), are relegated to the “I know what’s best for you” routine, the teenagers get to have all the fun. One of the late Chris Penn’s best roles was as Willard, the bumpkin who befriends Ren on his first day at school. Miles Turner inherits this part and almost steals the movie as the sweet-natured kid with a smart mouth and two left feet.
The title song, a Kenny Loggins classic, cleverly finds its way into this movie, too, and it’s a nice homage to a simpler time when kids could take over the drive-in theater for an impromptu dance-off like these teens do. Wait. What? I don’t remember ever doing that. Oh well, shall we dance?