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Footloose (A Movie Review)




Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller, Ziah Colon, Kim Dickens, Ray McKinnon, Patrick John Flueger, Ser’Darius William Blain, Maggie Jones, Mary-Charles Jones, Jayson Warner Smith, Jason Ferguson, Benjamin Davis, Reece Thomas, Ivey Lowe and Anna Marie Dobbins.

Screenplay by Dean Pitchford and Craig Brewer.

Directed by Craig Brewer.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  113 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

I can’t think of many films in the world that less needed a remake than Footloose, the surprising 1984 smash dancing drama that spawned a mega-platinum multi-hit soundtrack album and (briefly) made Kevin Bacon a huge star.  (Bacon had previously gained notice in supporting roles in National Lampoon’s Animal House and Diner, but this was the film that showed that he could carry a movie.)

First of all, despite its popularity, the original Footloose just wasn’t a very good film.  In fact, it was honestly pretty bad.  And frankly, even in 1984 the basic storyline – about a small town which had outlawed dancing – felt like a quaint anachronism.  It was like a script somehow passed down from the 1950s.  Nearly 30 years later, the idea seems all the more ludicrous.

There is always the late film critic Gene Siskel’s law of remakes: There is no point in remaking a good film because it’s already been done right.  Instead, if you have to do a remake, take a bad movie and make it better.

Of course, that warning was sounded long before Hollywood’s current remake-mania, where any title with any name-recognition – good, bad, or indifferent – is going to be dusted off and propped up for a new generation of movie-goers.

The new Footloose is even more useless a remake than most, as they have essentially used the exact same screenplay as the original.  There are a few tiny tweaks here and there, but this is by far the most faithful reboot of a film since Gus Van Sant’s misguided re-do of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.  (That is the only other remake, to my knowledge, that used the original script and just made some minor revisions here and there to acknowledge world progress, though I hear the recent remake of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs  which I haven’t seen yet, also took this path.)

The only real way that Footloose has changed anything up at all is in the soundtrack.  Though they remade most of the same songs from the first, they have changed the feel of the music from R&B/pop to country and hip-hop.  Boy, way to go out on a limb, guys.

Part of the problem with that is while several of the Footloose songs became big hits, most of them were not particularly good or memorable songs.  Kenny Loggins’ title track is basically the only one that anyone still remembers, and that was far from Loggins’ finest work.  Nor was Loggins’ other Footloose hit, “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” – though honestly that was a better song than the more popular “Footloose.”

Other acclaimed acts from the time did less-than-their-best work on their own Footloose hits – Deniece Williams (the way-overrated “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”), Shalamar (“Dancing in the Sheets”) and Bonnie Tyler (“Holding Out For a Hero.”)  Honestly, the only songs in the whole movie I’d have any interest in hearing again were the love theme, “Almost Paradise” by Loverboy’s Mike Reno and Heart’s Ann Wilson, and the few generic older already-hit singles they used to fill space: John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good,” Foreigner’s “Waiting For a Girl Like You” and Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health.”

And I certainly have no interest in hearing country or hip-hop remakes of any of those songs.

Of course the troubled back-story of this film also gives you doubts.  First Zac Efron was supposed to play the lead role, but he bowed out, fearing it would typecast him into High School Musical-type roles.  Then Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford was tapped to play the part, but he left the cast, too – for rather vague reasons.  Eventually they settled on the totally unknown Kenny Wormald  to take over (he was previously best known for starring in a 2008 straight-to-video sequel to Center Stage and for being a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake).  In fairness to him, he is handsome, can smolder on command and is able to rock the ray-bans and hair gel like Bacon did.  But otherwise, he doesn’t bring anything different to the table.

So other than the fact that Julianne Hough is hotter than Lori Singer (who played the same wild preacher’s daughter love interest in the first version) was, there is absolutely no reason to watch this new version of Footloose over the original.  And honestly, I can’t think of all that many reasons to watch the original, either.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: February 25, 2012.

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