‘Footloose’: Sorry, but remake has two left feet

I have long thought that the mu­sic was the best part of 1984’s Footloose. Who can for­get Kenny Log­gins’ toe-tap­ping, fin­ger-snap­ping title-track hit song and Deniece Wil­li­ams’ boo­gie-worthy Let’s Hear It for the Boy?

The 2011 ver­sion of Footloose can’t even lay claim to any songs that will forever re­main in the minds of movie fans. Those two tracks, plus Hold­ing Out for a Hero and Al­most Para­dise, are simply re-re­cor­ded by dif­fer­ent artists in the new film.

I thought the premise (a con­ser­vat­ive town out­laws dan­cing, new kid comes in and shakes things up) was un­be­liev­able even for the 1980s. Guess what? It’s still flimsy at best today.

Dir­ec­ted by Craig Brew­er (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), Footloose feels a lot like one of those Step Up dance movies. I like to think of this Footloose as urb­an dan­cing in the coun­try, while Step Up is urb­an dan­cing in the city. On the pos­it­ive side, if Kenny Or­tega had stayed on as dir­ect­or (re­ports say he left be­cause of cre­at­ive dif­fer­ences), I prob­ably would be say­ing the movie felt a lot like High School Mu­sic­al, and that’s not a good thing.

For those who don’t know the story, Ren Mac­Cor­mack (played by new­comer Kenny Wormald) is the big-city Bo­ston kid who comes to live with fam­ily in small-town Bomont, Ga., after the un­timely passing of his moth­er.

He im­me­di­ately sets his sights on the preach­er’s daugh­ter, Ar­i­el Moore (Ju­li­anne Hough of Dan­cing With the Stars fame). Ar­i­el is what folks back in the day re­ferred to as “fast”; she has a bad-boy boy­friend who is ba­sic­ally us­ing her for one thing.

Lead­ers in the town, in­clud­ing Ar­i­el’s dad, the Rev. Shaw Moore (Den­nis Quaid), have banned all sorts of typ­ic­al teen­age activ­it­ies (stay­ing out late, drink­ing and dan­cing), spurred by the death of some stu­dents after a party.

When Ren ar­rives in town, he fights to lift the ban on dan­cing and win Ar­i­el’s heart in the pro­cess.

The movie ex­cels dur­ing the dance scenes, which are up­beat, and, dare I say, even a bit ex­cit­ing. Since Wormald and Hough are pro­fes­sion­al dan­cers, I’d ex­pect noth­ing less. One of the most fun scenes (a carry­over from 1984) is when Ren teaches his friend Wil­lard (Chris Penn from 1984, Miles Tell­er in the re­make) how to dance.

However, the dra­mat­ic scenes felt like they should have been on a soap op­era on day­time tele­vi­sion. I’m not sure if it was the new­bie act­ors to blame or bad writ­ing, but this area def­in­itely needed more at­ten­tion.

Neither the 28-year-old Wormald nor the 24-year-old Hough looked like teen­agers, but that’s al­most come to be ex­pec­ted since high school movies rarely seem to fea­ture ac­tu­al high school stu­dents. Still, I found it slightly an­noy­ing.

Older movies of­ten are “re-ima­gined” with bits and pieces of the ori­gin­al in­ter­spersed with new ele­ments. There’s no re-ima­gin­ing go­ing on with Footloose; it’s the al­most the ex­act same movie, just set in 2011 with dif­fer­ent act­ors.

Footloose is one of those quint­es­sen­tial ’80s flicks that Gen X and Y’ers identi­fy with as part of their youth. It’s a movie that prob­ably should have re­mained a dis­tant memory. ••

Movie Grade: C

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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