“Footloose” Remake Tied to the Original
By: The Film Informant
In remaking the 1984 dance movie, “Footloose,” which was both iconic and problematic, director Craig Brewer faced a tough choice: make drastic changes and dare to improve on the first film, or play it safe and stick to the original formula. Inevitably, the more box-office friendly option was trump, and the end result is a remake that’s tied foot-tight to the original.
The plot changes little. When rebellious teen, Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald), moves from the big city to a small town where the local church has pushed through a ban on dancing and rock music, he defies authority and stirs up the populous. But there are tweaks to setting and style.
Brewer, who’s most notable films include “Hustle and Flow” and “Black Snake Moan,” is quickly becoming for the south what Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese are for New York. No surprise, then, that his remake gets relocated from Utah to Georgia, along with updates to the music and dance that usher “Footloose” into the 21st century with verve. Otherwise the same problems carry over.
As anyone who’s been to a family wedding can vouch, watching ordinary people dance can make for top-notch entertainment — both comedy and tragedy. But we go to movies like “Footloose” to watch choreographed professionals, and will gladly suspend disbelief to enjoy it, just as we will to watch musical performers belt out Sondheim or the actors who populate network sitcoms spout impossibly witty one-liners. It’s real life, just cranked up a few notches.
Such is the case in “Footloose,” which is at its best during the riveting and diverse dance numbers. In one of the movie’s best scenes a fast food restaurant owner has to wait for the police to scram before he can dish out illegal substances to minors, not for smoking or snorting — for dancing. He reaches under the counter for a bootlegged David Banner disk to fix the addicts, who blast it over the restaurant’s PA system. Cue dancing on screen and in your seat – everyone’s addicted to this drug.
Problem is, it’s not just the dancing – everything in “Footloose” is exaggerated, from the accents, be them Bomont or Boston, to the southern setting, to the acting. A couple notable exceptions include Kenny Wormald, who is both touching and cool as Ren MacCormack, and Miles Teller as Ren’s best new friend, Willard. Teller, a talent to look out for, is as exciting to watch as Sarah Jessica Parker was in the original. While his comedic timing, which accounts for nearly every laugh in the movie, is pitch perfect, he’s also able to add dimension and heart, transcending the stereotypes that plague many of the other performances.
The movie’s every aspect is blasted at such high volume that the subtle nuances which make Brewer’s other films memorable, and which would’ve given “Footloose” much needed depth, are blared out. Instead we’re served up a plate of generic, pseudo-southern mush, like grits with too much butter or David Banner with too much bass. Overstepping at every turn, this “Footloose” fails to strike a compelling rhythm and is, in the end, a dance movie that can’t dance.