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'Footloose' remake should be given the boot

October 17, 2011|By BOB GARVER
  • Julianne Hough, center, and Kenny Wormald star in a scene from "Footloose," the new remake of the 1984 classic film.
AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, K.C. Bailey

I’m told that this update on 1984’s “Footloose” is a pretty faithful remake of the original, which I’ve never seen. If that’s true then the original wasn’t very good either.

This version is dumb, poorly written, and doesn’t have nearly enough dancing. A good remake should make its audience want to see the original so they can study the source material. This remake makes me even less likely to see the original for fear of basically seeing the same bad movie twice.

The premise seems like it was taken from a cartoon for toddlers. The town of Bomont, Texas, has forbidden the act of public dancing. Can our dancing hero save the day?

The film attempts to make a dance ban sound remotely plausible, explaining that the law was made hastily following the tragic deaths of teenagers coming home from a dance. The screenplay is wasting its celluloid breath in these scenes. No amount of explanation is going to make the law seem like anything more than a ridiculous plot device. It would have just been better say that the law is the law and make us feel that the film takes place in a completely different world rather than an idiotic version of our own.

In comes outsider Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) to cause trouble for the establishment. He’s just a kid from Boston who wants to have fun, but everything fun is against the law in Bomont, and he soon grows weary of the adults’ condescending oppressiveness.

Ariel (Julianne Hough) is sick of the laws, too, and she takes every opportunity she can to act wild and irresponsible. The rebellious Ren and Ariel quickly fall in love, which naturally doesn’t sit well with Ariel’s preacher father (Dennis Quaid). This is especially problematic since he is the one responsible for promoting the anti-dance laws in the first place.

The adult actors in the film are okay, and Quaid is actually quite good, but the teenagers are horribly miscast. This is one of those awful movies where they have actors in their mid-20s playing high-school students. It’s really distracting.

Especially perplexing is the casting of established adult, Julianne Hough. She was clearly out of high school when she rose to fame on “Dancing With the Stars” four years ago, why cast her as someone even younger now?

Maybe the movie needed Hough for her dancing skills. That would be understandable if there was much dancing to speak of, but there really isn’t. The film is being marketed like it’s practically a musical, but actual dance scenes are surprisingly few and far between.

There’s dancing at the ill-fated opening social, an illegal party in a parking lot, a bizarre tantrum from Ren (intentional or not, the scene got a lot of laughs at my screening), a visit to a line-dancing bar, a requisite montage as a non-dancing character learns a few moves, and at a social event at the end.

But the dancing in these scenes is always brief, choppily edited, and usually focuses on Wormald (not that I’m denying his talents) instead of the ringer, Hough.

The film gets slightly more bearable toward the end as the characters pour their hearts into their arguments, but we’ve grown so accustomed to them having no common sense that we only see the passion.

Bomont seems to be a town stuck in time, so this update on “Footloose” doesn’t even feel modern. There is no reason for the film to exist other than that someone knows people will pay money for the name recognition and familiarity.

Two Stars out of Five

“Footloose” is rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language. Its running time is 113 minutes.

Contact Robert Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.

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