Those kids just gotta dance - again
The new "Footloose" raises a question: Was this remake necessary?
The Founding Fathers long ago declared that Americans are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of dance.
That's what they said, isn't it?
And so, in rural Bomont (pop. 19,300), when the authorities impose a ban on dancing in public, it just doesn't seem right. It didn't seem right 27 years ago, when Kevin Bacon boogied into town and started a revolt, and it doesn't seem right now, when Kenny Wormald moves from Boston to the tiny Southern burg, and can't believe he's forbidden to do his hip-hop moves, or shuffle his boots across a barroom floor.
And perhaps that's why Footloose, the entertainingly cheesy '80s musical, has been remade. Every now and then, we need to be reminded that shaking your booty is something essential. Or, in the case of director Craig Brewer's Footloose update, shaking your rebooty.
Brewer is the man behind the oddball and overheated Deep South melodramas Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan, and he does bring a little cultural specificity to the new Footloose. The friendships and rivalries of a close-knit Southern community have the air of authenticity about them, even if the dance numbers - line-dancing, break-dancing, waltzing - come straight from a Hollywood choreographer's playbook.
Wormald, a card-carrying hoofer (he was on MTV's Dancelife), brings a shaky Beantown accent and low-beam charm to the role of Ren McCormack, outside agitator. His parents have died, and so he's sent to live with his uncle and aunt (Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens), and he's just aghast and agog when he hears that the town preacher (Dennis McQuaid) has compelled the locals to impose a nightly curfew on minors, and to outlaw dance.
That's because the preacher and his wife (Andie MacDowell) lost their oldest son in a car accident, when a group of teens, drunk and high, were returning from, yes, a dance.
And so, when Ren starts courting Ariel, the preacher's daughter (Julianne Hough), conflict ensues.
Brewer is almost fetishistically faithful to the original Footloose, lifting whole chunks of dialogue and the Kenny Loggins-penned theme song, and planting little time-capsule totemic details (look for the '80s-vintage Tanya Tucker and Quiet Riot album covers). Quaid is stone-faced and somber, while Miles Teller (from Rabbit Hole) lightens things up as Ren's newfound country-bumpkin sidekick. (Pure hokum: the montage in which he's taught to dance by a pair of hip-shaking grade-schoolers.)
As remakes go, Footloose is fine, serving up slightly fresher batches of cheese and corn. But why? Why?