What would you be willing to do to correct an injustice? Would you be willing to risk your personal safety and stand up to a bully? Would you take time away from your family to help a homeless person get back on their feet? Would you camp out in New York City and face possible arrest to protest the perceived greed and corruption of Wall Street? Just to be clear, I’m not expressing my personal opinion of Wall Street, merely the view of those doing the occupying. This week’s movie, “Footloose,” follows a young man in a new town who perceives an injustice and fights it the only way he knows how…with dancing!
After a car crash following an impromptu dance party kills five high school seniors, the city council of Bomont, GA outlaws loud music and dancing. One of the primary backers of the ordinance is Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) whose son Bobby is one of those killed in the wreck. Three years later, Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) arrives in town. His mother recently died of leukemia and his father is nowhere to be found. He’s been sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Bomont. Born and raised in Boston, MA, Ren isn’t used to the laid back lifestyle of the south and quickly runs afoul of the local laws about loud music. Ren is a senior and begins his last year by making a friend of Willard Hewitt (Miles Teller), a local kid who shows Ren the ropes. Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough), the daughter of Rev. Moore, is also a senior. Ariel has become a wild child in the years since her brother’s death. She’s dating local dirt track race car driver Chuck Cranston (Patrick Flueger) who wants to rev up their relationship by moving it to the bedroom. Ren wants to fit in as best he can and not make trouble for his uncle who owns a used car dealership in town; but, the rules against dancing, preventing his class from having a senior prom, and a budding relationship with Ariel, against her father’s wishes, makes it difficult for this outsider to stay off the radar.
Fans of the original film will be pleased to hear Kenny Loggins’ version of the title song played as the film opens. We are treated to other songs from the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic throughout this modern update that makes use of iPods and cell phones. There are also numerous dance numbers scattered through the movie. Some are very similar to the original while others are completely modern, using hip hop and other moves unknown in the mid 80’s. All the energy of the dancing and the “gee whiz let’s shake things up” feeling of the story makes “Footloose” a hard movie not to like.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald, in only his fifth movie, strikes a fine balance between nice guy and rebel. His enormous teeth and perfectly styled hair tend to dominate any close up of his face, but these features quickly become secondary as the movie plays out. Wormald is a life-long dancer and has a variety of impressive moves throughout the movie. His aggressive dance style mirrors the attitude of his character, especially during the classic warehouse dance scene as Ren works out his frustration over the limits put on him by the town elders. While he’s not that great an actor, Wormald does manage to make Ren a believable character.
Julianne Hough, better known from her time on “Dancing with the Stars,” makes Ariel the kind of teenage tart that didn’t exist in my high school. Her rebellion against her father, amplified by the unresolved grief and anger over the loss of her brother, seems rather tame compared to what many high school kids do to act out. However, I believe Hough was hired less for her acting skills and more for her dancing and how she fills out a pair of tight blue jeans. Early on in the film, I wondered if her butt would get a co-starring credit since it was so prominently featured in more than a few shots. That attractive shape comes from her years of dance training and she is more than able to hold her own in the choreographed sequences.
The character that steals the movie whenever he’s on screen is Willard. Miles Teller, taking on the role originated by the late Chris Penn, is a comedic find. He plays Willard as both intelligent and slow at the same time. It’s a rare ability to make one character both smart and dumb and make it believable. Teller succeeds and makes you pay more attention to his character than any other when he’s on screen. I would have liked to seen more Willard in the movie to add some comedic snap to some scenes, but I realize he’s not focus of the story. Still, I hope Miles Teller has a long and successful career in movies. He has an interesting face and a great deal of talent.
The music and dancing of “Footloose” overwhelm a paper-thin plot that’s largely unchanged from the original film. The story is merely an excuse to get from one dance sequence to the next. The movie’s big emotional scene between Hough and Dennis Quaid plays out more as a scene from a second rate soap opera than a serious dramatic movie; but “Footloose” isn’t a serious movie. It’s about teen rebellion in its mildest form and that works in the film’s favor. “Footloose” has an infectious optimism and naïve quality that makes it difficult to dislike. The final scene at the big dance gives the audience the emotional payoff they always knew was coming and yet it still feels fresh and welcomed. Despite the frequent underage drinking, drug use (both seen and suggested) and grinding, suggestive dance moves, “Footloose” has an innocence that makes it all acceptable. After all, it’s just kids being kids.
“Footloose” is rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language. Beer is consumed frequently by the high school students (none of whom are anywhere close to being that young). There’s also a brief scene of marijuana use. There are three violent scenes, two of which are very brief. Foul language is scattered.
Walking into “Footloose” the biggest question on my mind was, “Did they need to remake a movie that holds such a dear place in many people’s hearts and minds?” Maybe they didn’t need to, but what they’ve created is an entertaining flick that will not sully the memory of the 1984 original and stands alone as its own entity.
“Footloose” gets five guitars.
Horror, British comedy and the reboot of classic characters are on the way to theatres this week. Vote for the movie you’d like me to review next.
Paranormal Activity 3—The third installment of the franchise takes it back to 1988, when two young sisters encounter an invisible force haunting their home.
Johnny English Rebort—The most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty's Secret Service is back in action to thwart an international conspiracy.
The Three Musketeers—In a new take on the Dumas tale, the hot-headed young D'Artagnan joins forces with three rogue Musketeers to stop the evil Richlieu.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any movie currently playing in theatres or perhaps On Demand.
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