Review: Footloose



Director Craig Brewer has two critical hits to his name. Both Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan were exceptional works from a natural talent. Now, Brewer has taken on the challenge of remaking an 80s classic with Footloose, but the real challenge for him has been one of marketing a fantastic work that people are too ready to dismiss as a blasphemy without having even seen it. In fact, Brewer is perhaps the world's biggest fan of the 1984 movie that made Kevin Bacon a star. He has taken the film on the road, touring cities around the US and stopped in Austin a couple of weeks before Fantastic Fest to present the movie along with star Kenny Wormald. (see photos here)

Brewer has realized an updated yet timeless version of the story about a city boy who brings dance back to a small town paralyzed with grief. Fans of the original will find it hard to dislike this one. Footloose is the same movie in almost every way, but with a couple of background adjustments that result in a better presentation. Nothing revolutionary, but I won't spoil them. You may not even notice consciously, but the result is stronger character motivation and a better film.

Dennis Quaid is much more relatable as a grieving father than the unflinching fire-and-brimstone preacher portrayed by John Lithgow in 1984. This is where Brewer's vision departs from the original. This isn't a story about religious intolerance, and the script makes a pointed remark on that if it wasn't already clear. Kenny Wormald's Ren is a richer, more complex portrayal, still headstrong but more of a golden boy than Bacon's take on the role, and he has a strong relationship with his uncle Wes Warnicker (Ray McKinnon)

Footloose is a movie about dancing, of course, and the cast reflects that. Wormald has been dancing since the age of 6, is an instructor, and was previously seen in You Got Served. Costar Julianne Hough, who plays preacher's daughter Ariel Moore, is best known from Dancing With the Stars. It is Miles Teller's performance as Willard, however, that makes the biggest impression. Following up a strong dramatic performance in last year's Rabbit Hole, he shows breadth as the comic relief here in a very demanding physical role. In fact, the only weak character was Andie MacDowell's Vivien Moore, a part written with the belief in mind that a reverend's wife should be seen and not heard. In most scenes, she smiles and is silent.

The music is instantly recognizable as Brewer has preserved most of the songs written for the original by Dean Pitchford, but with new artists performing. The updates join several new tracks that demonstrate once again Brewer's ability to influence the audience with his music selection as an integral part of his direction. With Footloose, he has created one of the best remakes ever and a loving homage to the original. Those who give the movie a chance this weekend will find themselves dancing in their seats.

I didn't like it. At all.

I went to go see Footloose on opening night because my school did the musical version last Spring. The movie was really, really awful. Not only did they leave out Wendy Jo and Urleen, they also left out Ren's mother Ethel McCormack, whose name they changed to Sandy. Apparently she died of Leukemia before the movie started (?!) Chuck was a race car driver, and in one scene they (Ren and Chuck and co.) race buses! Plus, Rusty and Willard are together at the beginning of the movie. On top of that, they rewrote "Holding out for a Hero" into a slow paced country song. It was terrible. Not only did they cut characters, but they also added them. Ren now has 2 little cousins as well as another friend called Chris.
To make matters worse, all the accents, like Rusty's Southern and Ren's Boston (even though he's originally from Chicago) were obviously fake and inconsistent.
I would not recommend it to anyone. This is one 80's movie better left not remade.

I have to reply to a couple

I have to reply to a couple of these points. First, there are numerous spoilers in your comment, which is inconsiderate to those who have not seen the film. The death of Ren's mother was a specific choice Brewer made in order to make Ren's anger more believable as well as give him a common point of view with Reverend Moore. The bus race was FUN and more exciting than tractors, which don't actually go very fast in real life. All of the songs were remade, with the exception of "Let's Hear It For The Boy," which is the original recording from 1984. Ren is staying with his aunt & uncle. It would be odd for him NOT to have cousins. There is no credited role for anyone named Chris. Ren's friend is named Willard, and they don't meet until Ren's first day at school. Finally, Ziah Colon (Rusty) grew up outside Atlanta, GA (this version is set in GA), and Kenny Wormald (Ren) is actually from Boston. Thus, the accents are entirely genuine.