Let's hear it for the boy, redux
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Oct 14, 2011
At least no one gave it Sunday shoes.
"Footloose," the 1984 rebels-and-rock musical that, along with "Flashdance," defined a generation, has been unnecessarily but energetically re-purposed for a new demographic cohort. The Sony Walkman Kevin Bacon memorably wore in the original has been supplanted by - what else? - an iPod, and his authority-flouting character, Ren McCormack, no longer partakes of the odd beer or cigarette. But, the occasional nip and tuck notwithstanding, director Craig Brewer has delivered a largely unobjectionable note-for-note facsimile of Herbert Ross's ode to teenage rebellion, young love and the unfettered joy of movement.
In fact, Brewer, best known for such gritty pulp as "Hustle and Flow" and "Black Snake Moan," manages to inject his own brand of realism and toughness into "Footloose's" only-in-Hollywood structure, opening the movie with an exuberant but also sobering preamble that explains why the Southern town of Bomont has instituted a curfew and banned public dancing and loud music. That law is proposed by Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) in a speech that, to the movie's credit, is stoked less by fire and brimstone than by the agony and rage of a grieving father.
When the streetwise McCormack - here played by former Justin Timberlake backup dancer Kenny Wormald - blows into Bomont from Boston, he immediately bristles at the strictures. He's also drawn to Moore's daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough), the town bad girl who is keeping company with a stock-car racing lout (Patrick John Flueger).
Ariel still wears red cowboy boots in "Footloose," which features the classic musical numbers from the original, including Ren's "angry dance," performed by Wormald with the muscular athleticism of a gymnast, and a montage set to Deniece Williams's "Let's Hear It for the Boy," in which Ren's best friend, Willard, learns to get down with his bad self. Originally played by Chris Penn, Willard here is played by Miles Teller, seen in last year's searing drama "Rabbit Hole," who delivers a genuine breakout performance as the film's goofy, good-ol'-boy source of comic relief.
"Dancing With the Stars" alum Hough does a creditable job of playing the troubled Ariel, even if during an otherwise innocent line-dancing scene she only seems to be missing a stripper's pole and a few dollars in her waistband.
But too often, Brewer makes the infuriating choice to film his dancers from the waist up, cutting away frequently so that the dance numbers only hustle and never flow.
Still, his reverence for his source material is equalled by a respect for his characters, who are never depicted as Red State yahoos, but always given understandable motives and, by extension, their dignity.
What's more, Brewer has brought a new degree of racial integration to "Footloose," giving Bomont a far more believable demographic palette and updating the soundtrack with a blend of blues, Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green.
"Footloose" never needed to be dragged into the 21st century, but Brewer has made it look and sound a little bit more like the real world.
Contains some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and profanity.
More on 'Footloose': ‘Footloose’: Dancing lets off steam, loses heat of original film