PLOT: After the death of his mother, Ren McCormack moves in with his uncle and family in a small town called Bomont. As the rebellious new kid, he finds out the hard way that loud music is illegal… as is dancing in public, thanks to the town’s tragic past. Soon, McCormack gets on his dancing shoes, turns up the beat and fights the elected officials in hopes to bring music back to this sleepy little town. Everybody cut, everybody cut loose… FOOTLOOSE!
REVIEW: Could it be that the remake of FOOTLOOSE is the best damn dance flick I’ve seen in years? You bet your Kenny Loggins it is! Craig Brewer has taken the original flick (minus Mr. Kevin Bacon) and amped up the dancing, the music and the style. You want booties shakin’, hips gyrating and toe’s a tappin’? You’ve got it in spades here. With music that will be familiar to fans of the original, including a mix of rap, country and a bunch of classic rock n’ roll. Too bad this unique fusion of sound didn’t find its way onto the soundtrack, which is nearly all the country tracks and nothing else.
The idea of a remake to this pop culture phenomenon sounded pretty dreadful early on. The 1984 version featured a soundtrack loaded with hit singles and a star making performance from Kevin Bacon. Not unlike FLASHDANCE or DIRTY DANCING, there was a time capsule quality about it. To mess with this bit of nostalgia would have been a terrifying commitment for any director. After all, the entire idea of a small town where dancing is illegal just seems ludicrously dated – unless of course you live in Utah where the original was filmed. Yet the story works, sometimes in spite of itself, thanks to its dedication to the original film.
Writer/director Brewer (HUSTLE & FLOW, BLACK SNAKE MOAN) brings a southern charm to this update. He and screenwriter Dean Pitchford also add a tragic element to Ren's character, and why he feels the need to fight the anti-dance law. Sure a "no dancing in public law" is a bit ridiculous, but if you’ve ever lived in a place like this, it is not that hard to believe. When five students are killed in an accident after a dance, local Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) vows to make sure it will never happen again. He and his wife Vi (Andie MacDowell) want to keep their rebellious daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) safe, as well as the rest of their friend’s children. Hell, you kind of feel sorry for the couple since one of the five was their own teenage son. Things get all shook up however when a young Bostonian named Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) comes in with his love for rocking out with music and dance.
What Brewer does here is inject this simple story with a dose of reality. Dennis Quaid is outstanding as the moral compass of a town “in need.” He only wants what he feels best for Bomont, whether it is or not. While the script is down for exploring morality, faith, religion and the fears of growing up, it is still a FOOTLOOSE remake. In other words, this is just entertainment that occasionally seeps into self importance, yet not enough to bring you down. After all, you could debate the hell out of some of these issues, but then you’d miss out on all the sidestepping goodness. And if you really feel the need to get angry about something, maybe you’ll be stirred by this modern day take on Kevin Bacon’s “angry dance” with a little White Stripes thrown in for good measure.
As far as the rest of the cast is concerned, there are a handful of bright spots. Julianne Hough is sinfully gorgeous, and she can even act. Yet much like the original, it is Ren’s sidekick Willard that really stands out. Originally played by the late Chris Penn, Miles Teller shines with a little bit of awkward and a whole lot of charm as the best buddy to Ren. Both Teller and Nia Colon (as Willard’s girlfriend Rusty) really bring out the grace and humor to this retro flick. It always helps to want to invest time in whoever is on-screen, and thankfully, it is not all that hard to root for the fine folks of Bomont.
Much like the Eighties hit, FOOTLOOSE (2011) is a treat that starts off with a bang. This is a much more entertaining couple of hours compared to something like STEP UP. With a country western vibe and a bright-eyed and innocent look at small town troubles, there is much enjoyment to be had. While there are moments that are much too gosh darned earnest to work, leaving the dramatic elements feeling occasionally forced; what’s important here is the music and the mood. So cut loose, foot loose and get down to your local theatre if you are looking for something near criminally fun this weekend. It may not be great art, but it sure as hell knows how to dance.