Everything old is new again in Craig Brewer’s surprisingly energetic, charming and satisfying remake of the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic…..or sort of classic anyway.
For those of us who grew up in the 80′s it’s a sentimental favorite anyway…..like the John Hughes films. So…I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it messed with or updated or redone….but…curiosity got the better of me so I grabbed the updated version off of the rental shelf at the local DVD rental place (yeah….there are some of those still around).
Funny thing is…it felt totally fresh. Director Brewer (a huge fan of the original film) had the ballsy audacity to make the film as if it had never been made before….and it paid off. No wink winks to the camera, no distracting Kevin Bacon cameo…..it’s like the film exists in an alternate timeline where the original Footloose never happened. Yeah…there are scenes that are almost directly lifted from the original film, dialogue that sounds eerily familiar and some wardrobe choices that ring a bell of recognition. However, you kind of forget that you’ve seen it all before due to the film’s Aw shucks charm and fresh faced cast of relative unknowns.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald ably steps into Kevin Bacon’s Sunday shoes as Ren McCormick, the rebellious teen who comes to live with his Uncle and Aunt in a small Georgia town where…yep…dancing is against the law. We are shown why it is against the law in the opening scene of the film where 5 promising high school seniors are killed in a violent head on collision on their way home from a party. One of the 5 was the son of local preacher Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid). This leads Moore to take the lead in supporting a town ordinance against dancing….yes…it’s still a preposterous premise but Director Brewer sells it more convincingly by showing us the shocking accident.
Ren gets into trouble almost immediately for playing his music too loud…and worse yet….he has the hots for the Rev’s daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough of Dancing With the Stars fame) but the Rev already has a suspicious eye on the cocky Bostonian newcomer (Wormald is from Boston so the script was wisely revised to incorporate his natural accent). Ren also picks up a best friend (Miles Teller) who can’t dance a lick……so the dance lessons begin. Oh, and in place of the tractor chicken run we now have a Nascar style school bus race….that, considering how violent it gets, should have resulted in a lot of teenage deaths…..but it’s not that kind of movie. This film (nor the original for that matter) does not exist on a real version of Planet Earth…therein lies it’s charm.
Hough as Ariel
But you all pretty much know the story...it's just being filtered through a new group of actors...a cast that ignites the screen with electric chemistry...and dancing...and characters who are all sympathetic in one way or another. A movie without guile, without pretense...a movie that exists to simply entertain...and it does.
...and in the end, peace is made between adults and teens, parents and children... boy gets the girl, bullies get the crap beaten out of them...and, most importantly, people DANCE!!!