Available this week on video, the remake of 1984’s “Footloose” is highly faithful to the original, so much so that the screenwriter for the original, Dean Pitchford, is correctly given a credit here. He shares it with director Craig Brewer, who makes the unusual move of recreating some scenes shot for shot. The result is a totally predictable but still entertaining movie, one that benefits from a strong cast and, of course, a lotta dancing.
In fact, Brewer could probably have inserted more dance scenes than he has, making fuller use of the talents of stars Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough. The latter is best known as an alumna of TV’s “Dancing with the Stars”: the former was a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake. Neither has much acting experience to speak of, but both do well enough in the scenes where they have not, uh, kicked off their Sunday shoes. Hough is especially convincing in her interchanges with Dennis Quaid, who plays her strict pastor father. Wormalds’s Bahstin accent comes and goes, a bit of a surprise from this Massachusetts native, but he’s cute and athletic enough so’s we don’t care.
The two leads are also supported by a strong cast, including Andi McDowell as the pastor’s wife and Kim Dickens as the hero’s aunt. (Both of these fine actresses are underused, I think, but that may stem from the filmmakers’ allegiance to the original.) Ray McKinnon and Miles Teller as a supportive uncle and a comic sidekick also provide interest in the non-dancing scenes, though Teller’s character develops some impressive moves by the finale.
Those familiar with the story will not be surprised, of course, but neither will almost anyone who hasn’t seen the 1984 version. The plot arc is shopworn, dating back to at least the 1940’s when Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland overcame parental obstacles to “put the Big Show on right here!” Here, Boston native Ren McKinnon (Wormald) moves in with his aunt and uncle after his mother dies of leukemia. He rapidly discovers that the town fathers (literally) had decreed three years earlier that there be no public dancing in their town of Bomont, GA. The triggering event was the deaths of five teenagers in a car accident following a kegger. One of the victims was the son of Rev. Shaw Moore (Quaid), whose moving semi-sermon to his fellow town council members provided the impetus for the town’s rigid curfew and behavior laws.
It also ultimately leads to the rebellion of Moore’s daughter, Ariel (Hough), a wild child high school senior who can’t wait to put Bomont in her rear view mirror. She’s drawn to the newbie when he struts his stuff at the local drive-in, eventually abandoning her abusive older boy friend (Patrick John Flueger). When Ren starts a petition to overturn the anti-dancing law, Ariel and her classmates join the cause, sparking several of the movie’s climactic confrontations and leading to the concluding Big Dance Number. Choreographer Jamal Sims, cinematographer Amy Vincent, and film editor Billy Fox deserve major credit for their work in updating the action and cinematic techniques from a quarter-century ago.
“Footloose” is rated “PG-13” for language and some sexual innuendo, though neither will prove especially shocking to today’s young target audience. If anything, the popularity of shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” has upped the ante for dance movies, and this one proves equal to the challenge.