The 1984 ‘Footloose’ told a fun, jaunty story about a teen named Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) who moves into a Christian community and rebels against a local law prohibiting “public dancing.” It wasn’t a great movie, but it’s an enjoyable one with a few strong dance sequences. Despite the fact that the 2011 remake follows the same formula and story, it fails to capture the lightness or the charm of the original.
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Like in the original, Ren (Kenny Wormald) is a stranger in a small town and doesn’t fit in. In the remake, he’s a wise-cracking rebel from Boston who acts and talks differently than his classmates. When he learns that the town minister (Dennis Quaid) helped pass a law against public dancing, Ren starts to understand that’s he’s not in Bean Town anymore. “Dancing can be destructive,” the minister argues, to Ren’s dismay. In the meantime, the minister’s daughter (‘Dancing with the Stars” Julianne Hough), who Ren develops feelings for, spends her days running wild and ignoring her father’s pious advice.
The remake was written by Dean Pitchford, the screenwriter of the original ‘Footloose,’ and director Craig Brewer. One of the problems they seemingly encountered was making this remake more contemporary without losing the original’s laid-back charm. While the original found Ren playing a game of chicken on a tractor with the town’s bad boy, this remake shows Ren in a race with a group of trouble-makers. Each of them drives an old school bus and races around an empty lot, trying not to crash. The original scene, while unremarkable, was charming in its simplicity. No one’s life was in danger. The remake, though, had to rev things up with this big bus-racing sequence. In replacing simplicity with adrenaline, the remake loses some of the original’s innocence.
In choosing the cast who would introduce ‘Footloose’ to a new generation, the filmmakers made one great decision and a few terrible ones. Casting Kenny Wormald, a back-up dancer for Justin Timberlake, was their best decision. This charismatic newcomer easily fits into Kevin Bacon’s dancing shoes. The rest of the cast, however, can’t keep up. As the female lead, Hough fails to create an interesting character. Yes, Ariel is supposed to be a rebellious teen, but she’s supposed to be a likeable teen, not the whiny, wild child that she’s portrayed as. It’s difficult to feel anything but pity for the party-going, crazy girl who plays the predictable role of a preacher’s daughter gone bad. Quaid can’t do much with his role as the minister either. Unlike John Lithgow, who created a sympathetic character in the original, Quaid plays the preacher as a one-dimensional villain.
The new ‘Footloose’ doesn’t even get the dancing scenes right. With a strong soundtrack and more of a focus on dancing, the original could have audiences tapping their feet to the beat. The remake could have audiences tapping their feet waiting for the movie to end.
While not great, Bacon’s ‘Footloose was a fun and simple story with great music. I’m still not sure why the studio decided to remake ‘Footloose’ to begin with, but I am sure that there’s no reason to check out this lame remake.
If you want to cut loose with ‘Footloose,’ try the Bacon version. That one has stood the test of time, something this remake could only dream of doing.