Rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language
I really didn't want to like Footloose because I loved the original, but right from the start this new version won me over and kept me entertained throughout.
After five high school students die in a drunk driving accident after a dance party in the small town of Bomont, the town council decides to put a curfew on kids under 18 and ban dancing. Three years later Ren MacCormack arrives in town from Boston, where his mother has just passed away. He moves in with relatives and is immediately smitten with the pastor's daughter Ariel, whose brother was one of the five who died years earlier, and whose father was part of the council that banned dancing. As an outsider, Ren doesn't quite understand the ban and along with Ariel and his new friend Willard, decides to fight the law and get dancing back in the town. But there are those that conspire against him, and he may be up against the wall. But these kids will not be stopped from taking off their Sunday shoes and cutting loose.
Count me as one of the people who was disgusted at the idea of remaking Footloose. I was immediately against it and went to the screening simply because I wanted to be able to make fun of it afterwards. Well, that didn't happen. As much as I wanted to hate this film, I couldn't help but like it. The movie starts off on the right note by showing kids dancing to the original Kenny Loggins version of the titular song, and I was immediately hooked. I thought that was a brilliant decision by the filmmakers because no matter how much you didn't want to like the film, having that song lead off the film brings you right in. Because really, when you hear the song how can you not start dancing in your seat? I thought the movie did a good job at taking the story from the older version and updating it for the new generation. It's still a strange story - a town banning dancing was always a little dumb to me - but here they at least gave us a reasonable reason. It was an overreaction to a tragic situation but you can at least see where the town council was coming from. In the years following, the pastor's daughter Ariel changes from wallflower to slightly crazy and the rest of the kids in town seem to follow suit. And when Ren saunters into town you can sense the mood change. He quickly makes friends, which I prefer to the standard 'outsider being picked on constantly' storyline we normally see. His romance with Ariel doesn't come about quickly either, as she has her own issues with a much older guy to deal with. And of course there's illegal dancing throughout. They even keep in the iconic 'angry dancing in an abandoned warehouse' scene from the original, with worse music but with better dancing. There were a bunch of scenes that were picked up from the original and slightly changed, and I liked that because it reminded me of the older film but was nicely updated for 2011. My favorite scene in the older film was when Kevin Bacon is telling Chris Penn this outrageous story and Chris is sitting there taking it all in and at the end says 'Really??' and Bacon looks him right in the eye and says 'No.' It was the one scene that my friends and I took to heart after seeing the movie (opening weekend by the way - the first time I saw a movie without parents around) taking every opportunity we could to make up stories, just so people would ask us if it was true and us saying 'no.' A version of that scene is in the remake, so that made me happy, even though the payoff wasn't the same.
I think what really did it for me was the casting. It may be blasphemous to say but overall I think this movie was better cast than the original. My biggest problem with the original is that everyone seemed so old. Kevin Bacon has always looked older than he was and he felt really out of place. And as a 'tough' guy he never worked for me. Hell I didn't even like his dancing. His personality however is what made that movie work so well. Well, that and the iconic music. The rest of the cast was OK, with John Lithgow really standing out. But compared to the new version, I liked this casting a lot better. Everyone felt like they belonged in high school. Initially I wasn't sold with Kenny Wormald in the lead, especially since I had no idea who he was, but he did a commendable job, and boy can he dance. When he danced, I really believed it. His Boston accent kept fading in and out when he needed it to, but in the end he did a good job. Julianne Hough, now there's a woman who can fill out a pair of jeans with the best of them. She's stunning and is another one who can actually dance. You couldn't take your eyes off of her when she was on screen. Is she the greatest actress ever? Not by a long shot, but she looked good doing what she was doing. Dennis Quaid felt right as the pastor, though Andie MacDowell felt a little out of place as his wife. She felt like she was slumming for some reason. Her role wasn't that big for an actress who was once definitely on the A-list (even if it was only for a few months). I loved the kid who played Willard. He definitely had some of the best lines in the movie. The story (taking away the ridiculousness of the premise) was so-so. There were definitely some head scratching moments, and there's a period in the latter third that feels really slow. But the cast and characters manage to keep it lively and entertaining.
Then there's the music. That's the one place the original movie still shines brighter. Since they put the original Kenny Loggins version of Footloose in the beginning, you could hear the clear difference with the Blake Shelton remake at the end, and there is no comparison. They changed up a few of the songs, like making Holding Out For a Hero into a ballad, and having Let's Hear It For The Boy be sung by a bunch of kids, and while they kind of worked, they all paled in comparison to the original. I would love to see a version of this new movie with the old songs layered into it. That might be the best of both worlds.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked Footloose. I didn't want to, but the movie quickly won me over. It was a little long but otherwise it's definitely worth seeing.