May 2010- The Nightmare on Elm Street remake is atrocious. If you’ve had the displeasure of seeing it, not much more needs to be added.
June 2010- The Karate Kid remake makes ton of cash, but everybody over the age of 10 feels unclean after watching it as it’s 30 minutes too long and Jaden Smith is annoying.
October 2011- The Footloose remake gets it right.
Now we wait as Hollywood tries to remake\reboot\re_____ every single film from 1984. Let the laxative work its way into the system as we get sprayed out updated versions of Ghostbusters, Amadeus, Cocoon, and Breakin’. I know, if Breakin’ does well then we get to see the words Electric Boogaloo onscreen again.
But let’s focus on the positive while we can as, against most expectations (c’mon, you thought it was going to suck too), Footloose ’11 is one of the better films of the year, sure to satisfy fans of the original as well as bring in those who were zygotes when the first movie came out…
Before Kevin Bacon became one of the best utility actors out there.
Before Sarah Jessica Parker got airbrushed in almost every frame.
Before Chris Penn was dead.
Before Lori Singer…well, when we actually heard from Lori Singer.
Footloose’s biggest accomplishment is that it can stand on its own as a movie as well as a respectful homage to an 80s classic. Yes, it’s still as slight and lightweight in both versions, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be taken in when you watch it. It works better than most if not all dance movies simply by not being retarded as most dance movies always forget that it has to be a “movie” first (you know, with an actual story that doesn’t make you laugh unintentionally), before focusing on the dancenastics.
It also helps that Footloose has a real filmmaker at the helm in the form of Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan’s director Craig Brewer instead of some music video director whose longest film over 5 minutes was the Rabinowitz Bar Mitzvah back in 2003.
Footloose also has real actors in the form of Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell as well as star-making performances from Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough. These kids can act as well as dance, as most “actors” these types of movies can only dance while seeming to stumble through the smudged lines written on the back of their hands (See Channing Tatum in Step Up, the entire cast of Step Up 2…and Step Up 3D… that shitty Antonio Banderas Take the Lead and…on and on…). From the opening frame, you can see the care Brewer (co-written by original Footloose scribe Dean Pitchford) brought to making sure this isn’t just another dispensable remake.
BTW- I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the original simply because the last time I saw Footloose ’84 was on VHS if that tells you anything. I didn’t bother viewing it again because I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be bogged down by symbolism or a dense plot. The Tree of Life this ain’t.
Footloose opens sometime in 2008 in the hick town of Bomont with some very familiar opening credits. If you’re a fan of the first one you’ll be taken back to the first time you saw it, though I’m not sure what kids would be doing listening to the Kenny Loggins’ version of “Footloose” in the year 2008 unless they were having an 80s party.
Anyway, everyone is having a good time while 5 kids leave the party for a fun drive experiencing being young and indestructible. They’re so engrossed while singing “Footloose” and making out that they don’t notice a truck barreling down on them as they’re on a highway to the Danger Zone, taking it right into the Danger Zone.
Before we can Please Louise and Jack can get Back, the truck has killed them. We learn that these 5 kids are not indestructible, but they will remain young since they won’t be doing any aging. Ever.
Curse that Kenny Loggins and his murderous ways.
We cut to their collective funerals. There aren’t any discernible caskets because all their entrails mixed into the concrete and asphalt. I’m sure if they tried they could shovel up enough gristle and innards to fill an entire coffin, but we’re not focused on that. We’re focused on the Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid, not as much of an overt monster as John Lithgow in the original). His son Bobby was one of the 5 dead kids and clearly the most important one. Moore blames lewd and lascivious dancing.
Since Reverend Moore is part of the Bomont city council, he proposes a ban on public dancing because that’s the leading cause of death among teenagers as dancing is a gateway drug. You also can’t play your music too loud.
We realize the implausibility of this as the weakest parts of both films, but we accept it or else there’s no movie.
Still, why don’t they make death against the law while they’re at it?
3 YEARS LATER, a huge title card reads, and the kids are still dead.
There’s a new kid in Bomont named Ren MacCormack (a charismatic Kenny Wormald, worth more than 4 Efrons). Everyone notices the new guy because nobody actually moves INTO Bomont unless their mother just died and they’re living with a kindly aunt and uncle who have taken them in.
Ren is moving to Bomont from Baw-stun Mass because his mother just died (just like Save the Last Dance) and he’s now living with a kindly aunt and uncle who have taken him in. From the big city to Bomont, Ren is truly a fish out of water and any other clichés that apply. It’s truly hard out there for a wigger pimp, because Ren doesn’t know anybody but at least his uncle Wesley (Ray McKinnon) let him fix up a Volkswagen that looks just like Kevin Bacon’s as well as helped him get a job at the cotton gin ginning cotton or playing the banjo.
Ren fixes up the Bug and goes joyriding. Unfortunately, he’s playing his Quiet Riot a little too loudly and that’s against Redneck Law here in Bomont. He gets pulled over and ticketed from the crime of disturbing the peace. Though you’d think all the country music they play in the first 20 minutes of the movie would be a crime in itself…
Ren can’t believe he got ticketed for music while he just witnessed a pig being violated over at Old Man Whitman’s. At least he has all his teeth so he can protest this injustice.
Meanwhile, Uncle Wes is introducing Ren around to the other characters in the movie, most importantly Reverend Moore and his nubile young daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough).
You see, it was Ariel’s older brother Bobby that got killed, and she still hasn’t gotten over it. She’s coping by being a slut, though in a very PG-13 way. She and Ren definitely have an attraction, but even Ren can sense that Ariel’s entire body is a tramp stamp for a local hayseed named Chuck.
Ren has a new best friend in the form of Willard (Miles Teller from Rabbit Hole, another movie with dying kids). Willard has an accent and a name like Willard. He also can’t dance and has a lot of rats. Ren just might have to fix that. Ren notices that there are actual black people in Bomont, a lot more than there were in 1984.
Miles tells Ren some very important backstory about the kids dying and how that pertains to the laws against music and public dancing. Nothing that we don’t already know.
At the local hangout, instead of drugs or illicit sex, the big transgression is when the shopkeeper has a *gasp* CD filled with *gasp again* dance music (“D-d-d-d-avid Banner”). Scandalous. After the local pigs have left, music fills the air and the kids begin dancing their cares away, knowing they’re breaking the law.
We find out that Ren has quite a few dance moves and we’ll suspend disbelief that the white guy is the best dancer of the bunch. Ariel can dance as well, but her moves are more suited to a pole and a myriad of one dollar bills. Ren is still attracted to her, but not when she’s giving off the skank vibe. Man, Ariel sure has a lot of dead brother issues to work out before she catches something that needs an ointment or a monthly shot. She needs a hero, she’s holding for a hero ‘til the end of the night, um, movie.
Ren already knows that only through the transcendent power of dance can Bomont and its children truly healed. If only he could do something about it. Maybe he can get Ariel to open up (her feelings) so he won’t be dealing with sloppy seconds all the time. And then he can teach Miles to dance.
Not bad for a kid that just moved in. Let’s hear it for the boy.
What works with Footloose-
1) The movie’s actually fun to watch, partially because you have to take the plot semi-seriously which makes the moments of levity feel genuinely earned. Again, the film’s message is no deeper than a fortune cookie and that all its problems will be solved by dancing, but just try watching every other dance movie and compare. Then again, maybe not. If you watch only one dance movie every 5 to 15 years, make it Footloose.
2) Best song of the Soundtrack- The slow, countrified cover of “Holding Out for a Hero” by Ella Mae Bowen. Taking a song that launched a million workouts from the years 1984 through 1989 and slamming the brakes on it might seem like a bad idea but it works. Oddly enough, the worst song on the soundtrack is…
3) For fans of the original who kvetch that their oh-so precious childhood might be raped because of a remake (though in most instances they have a case), the Angry Dance and the Ren/Willard dance training montage are lovingly, almost slavishly rendered. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the shots matched from the ’84 version a la Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised Psycho remake. Still, in the past 27 years since Footloose, I have yet to be “angry” enough that I just need to DANCE.
What doesn’t work-
1) Andie MacDowell is overcast as the long-suffering preacher’s wife. Apparently she’s so long suffering that she gets barely 15 words in the entire movie.
2) Worst Song on the Soundtrack- The Blake Shelton cover of “Footloose.” Made me want drive with a bunch of teenagers headfirst into oncoming traffic. Shoulda had Miranda Lambert do it.
Overall. Overcome your gallows curiosity and your lowered expectations and go watch Footloose ’11. Bring your kids if you don’t want to feel too old as they’ll like it more than any dance movie they’ve seen in their lifetime. If you do, no one in your immediate circle will die in horrible car accident. If you don’t, well…I can’t control the power of the Loggins, though many have tried.