The 2011 “Footloose” remake didn’t cause a cultural stir, launch any of its leads into superstardom or force us to update our iPods.
It turned out just fine all the same, a credible remake of a film that, truth be told, had far more spunk than filmmaking savvy.
Once more we meet Ren McCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald), a big city kid forced to live with his southern kin after a family tragedy. Ren dresses a little funny and has attitude to spare, but he’s essentially a sweet kid looking for a fresh start.
When he learns his new town forbids dancing, the toe-tapping teen revolts and tries to change the rules. But first he’ll have to woo the preacher’s daughter (“Dancing with the Stars” stunner Julianne Hough), befriend a local with two left feet (Miles Teller) and make peace with said preacher (Dennis Quaid).
One winces at the thought of a 21st century movie depicting a dance-free town, but the new “Footloose” handles that assignment as seamlessly as possible. Kudos also to allowing Quaid’s preacher to be a flesh and blood type, not the anti-religious zealot we feared. John Lithgow pulled off a similar feat in the 1984 source material.
And then there’s the dancing – more hip-hop and country than pure pop this time around, and delivered with the expected exuberance.
There’s a fine line between homage and outright theft, and “Footloose” dances over it repeatedly. Ren wears a red tuxedo for the big dance, and instead of Tractor Chicken the teens play School Bus Chicken. The film is so slavishly loyal to the 1984 version it feels like we’re watching a VHS tape despite the crisp Blu-ray presentation.
Director Craig Brewer of “Hustle and Flow” fame shows why he was a good fit for the material – he’s not too showy, but he’s also fearless in following the slapping feet wherever they may go.
Neither Wormald nor Hough give “A Star is Born” style turns, but both are engaging and prickly in the required doses. Wormald, a dancer by trade, expresses himself better with his feet than his mouth, but that’s mostly a testament to his slick gyrations.
Hough, who resembles a younger Jennifer Aniston, doesn’t look phoney delivering hard-boiled lines to her perplexed preacher pappy. She’s lithe and lovely, but more importantly never appears lost during the moist-eyed moments.
The remake outshines the original with its genre-bouncing songs. We get some hearty twang into the soundtrack, a nod to both an untapped market as well as the film’s southern setting, and the hip-hop moves mesh with the sense of freedom the teens collectively demand.
The “Footloose” Blu-ray extras include a commentary track with Brewer, deleted scenes, music videos, a featurette on “re-imagining” the 80s favorite, “Everybody Cut: The Stars of Footloose” and “Jump Back: Re-Imagining ‘Footloose.'”
In the latter, Hough reveals how films like “Footloose,” “Grease” and “Dirty Dancing” convinced her to become a hoofer by trade. She wasn’t the only one influenced by Kevin Bacon’s breakout role.
“I felt in my own way I was Ren McCormack,” Brewer says. “More than any other movie ‘Footloose’ was mine.”
In “Dancing with the ‘Footloose’ Stars,” choreographer Jamal Sims talks about adding hip-hop to the classic movie’s sonic mix. Brewer isn’t a dance instructor, but he instinctively knew what he wanted for the film.
“How do you have amazing choreography without it looking choreographed?” Brewer asks, a question he posed to Sims during the production.
A “Footloose” rap segment is for diehard fans only. A fan who created an online rap based on the original film remakes her own song while Brewer, Wormald and Hough watch and dance along. Clearly Brewer’s dance moves were purposely kept out of the final print.