Directed by: Craig Brewer
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid
The 80s were filled with a lot of lovable, equally memorable trends both in and outside the realm of cinema. For every beloved, genuinely worthwhile film that the public was and still is graced with, there stood tall a few that prided themselves on familiar teen angst-infused cliches and, in some cases, agreeably cheesy yet era-appropriate dance choreography. One example that fits the latter half of that bill less than admirably is (drum roll) Herbert Ross’ Footloose, starring none other than Sir Kevin Bacon. Iconic as the film has become in the years since its initial release, an update of it was as foreseeable as an actual zombie apocalypse, even during a time when reboots and remakes are as commonplace as hot dog carts on city street corners.
As a blatant rehash of the 1984 original, Footloose presumably replicates the requisite fish-out-of-water narrative framework, dropping us smack in the middle of Bomont, Georgia as recent tragedy leads to a local ban on both loud music and public dancing for the town’s teens. Having not seen the original in its entirety, I can only assume that the not-so-subtle mix of dancing and immensely flawed dramatic sensibilities has been at least somewhat improved upon in the transition from one version to the next. Much to my dismay, there isn’t much of an improvement to be found.
Mildly humorous as it may be, Footloose desperately tries to make us care for the central characters by forgoing how simple-minded its central premise really is in favor of focusing on the tragedy that has befallen our two leads. On one side of the spectrum, we have the new kid on the block: Boston native Ren McCormack, of whom has recently lost a mother to leukemia, and on the other, we have textbook preacher’s daughter-type Ariel coping with the loss of her brother Bobby three years prior. As serious as their circumstances both are, director Craig Brewer literally can’t make us care for either of them regardless of the latter’s effect on the town’s current stance on teen mischief. Long story short, the film takes itself too seriously, quickly expelling itself from the realm of cheesy lowbrow fun in favor of embracing something out of its reach.
Herein relying on dance as both a means of expressing oneself and just having a good time, the more memorable dance-oriented sequences featured in the original film have been both replicated and updated in an honest attempt to appeal to a newer, younger audience. Fortunately, the sequences in question are quite impressive if a bit scarce; something to be expected of a cast helmed by two professional dancers with little to no prior acting experience. In terms of fitting the bill, Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough carry the proverbial torch despite the rather ordinary efforts put forth by the less-than-dynamic dancing duo. Relative newcomer Miles Teller thankfully swoops in to serve as the film’s prolific contributor to its comedic integrity, and as for Mr. Quaid, well, he does what he does as we’ve come to expect him to.
Although it sports intermittent bursts of technical impressiveness and above average dance sequences, Footloose ultimately suffers from trying to be something it’s not: emotionally poignant. Dramatically flawed as the film infinitely is, there’s no denying director Craig Brewer’s knack for deftly implementing music into his projects and the script’s partial ability to make the audience chuckle both intentionally and unintentionally. Putting aside the less admirable efforts of its two leads in favor of appreciating their obvious performing arts-centric capabilities, Footloose will most definitely cater to fans of the original film and nothing more.