Synopsis: Writer/Director Craig Brewer (âHUSTLE & FLOW,â âBLACK SNAKE MOANâ) delivers a new take of the beloved 1984 classic film, âFOOTLOOSE.â Ren MacCormack (played by newcomer Kenny Wormald) is transplanted from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont where he experiences a heavy dose of culture shock. A few years prior, the community was rocked by a tragic accident that killed five teenagers after a night out and Bomontâs local councilmen and the beloved Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) responded by implementing ordinances that prohibit loud music and dancing. Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizing the town and falling in love with the ministerâs troubled daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) in the process.
Release Date: October 14, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Musical, Romance
There are two types of viewers that will go to the re-make of Footloose: those who loved the original and want to experience the toe-tapping fun that was Footloose, and those who have never seen the original and hope to experience what the fortunate did over 25 years ago with the original. For the newbies it will be acceptable, although nothing to tell your friends about. For the nostalgic attendees it will feel like someone took your favorite doll, cut its head off, ripped the stuffing out, and then tried to put it back together again, creating a monster.
The opening credits of the 2011 Footloose foster hope for the re-make. A dance hall is alive with music, and the feet of the dancers, in all of their different shoes, on parade in close-ups from the camera. This is the same way the original 1984 film opened, and the music is just as infectious as always–this time the title song “Footloose” is performed by Blake Shelton. The rest of the movie starts, and the entire doll metaphor above begins. As difficult as it is to separate the original from the re-make it is with every effort to do so in this review. But given the obvious attempts by the filmmakers to mimic much of the original Footloose for a new generation it is a difficult task. That being said, there will undoubtedly be comparisons throughout the review–if this bothers you, stop reading now.
The story remains the same in the 2011 Footloose. Leading man Ren (Kenny Wormald) has just moved to small-southern-town Bomont where loud music and dancing have been outlawed because of a terrible accident that occurred a few years back. Ren of course is an outsider but in this new version of Footloose he makes friends very quickly and besides his run-in with the law–over loud music–things are somewhat smooth for Ren’s transition. Even if the Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) thinks he is a bad influence and wants him to stay away from his daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough). As teenagers will do they ignore the law and have secret dance-offs in parking lots, or sneak away from town to dance their little hearts out at a line-dancing club. In the new version they race buses instead of tractors. Buses?! It is ridiculous, and angering because of the greatness of this scene in the original, but it does have a great ending so it is almost forgivable. Other than the above the teenagers are teenagers, living a life locked down by their parent’s fears. Footloose (2011) is not a deep movie, and all the analyzing you could muster with the original is not worth the trouble with the re-make. Back to the plot…For Ren, all of this lying and sneaking and “law” makes him angry. He believes dancing should be a human right, and the Reverend and Town Council are not going to stop him from having a school dance. Ren fights the system, and if you have seen the original you know what happens. If you have not it will come as no real surprise.
Now about Ariel…in the original Footloose she was a bad-girl who ran with the wrong type of man, partied a little too much, and did things a Reverend’s daughter should not be doing. But the film never insinuated Ariel was slutty; Hough’s Ariel is just asking to be called all sorts of derogatory things. The script itself gives her a few lines here and there that bring this to light but it is Hough’s performance that is far too over-sexed and hyped up, turning Ariel into a woman you do not like nor want Ren to end up with in the end. Sure, she has her moment of proclamation to her father but this good-girl-gone-bad is just awful to watch–as a woman, a role-model, and simply as a character. Wishing Ren had eyes for any other woman in the film happens quickly. Without the desire to see the two main characters end up together makes Footloose wholly reliant on its other characters to carry the story, as well as the music and dancing.
On a better note, the boy who makes “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” so much darn fun in the movie is Miles Teller, taking on the role of Willard from Christopher Penn in the original. If it were not for Teller’s Willard all would be lost in Footloose. The humorous lines said by a southern boy roll off his tongue perfectly. He is cute and adorable, sweet and mild-tempered, and he cannot dance for the life of him. His dancing skills are about to improve and the montage of Willard learning to dance is just as good as it was in the original film–even with the odd inclusion of children this time around. Willard makes Footloose fun, and not so serious all the time with Ariel’s drama with her daddy and Ren’s occasional moping about his new life. “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” is by far the best quote to describe Willard, because without him Footloose (2011) would be a complete bore. This last statement could equally be said for his (girl)friend Rusty (Ziah Colon). Rusty was originally played by Sarah Jessica Parker and the filmmakers obviously wanted to keep the same look to Rusty as before because she oddly resembles Parker–the nose, the hair, even her smile, all scream Sarah Jessica Parker. It is a good thing Ziah is full of spunk and fun as Rusty, just like Parker was in the original.
What makes the 2011 Footloose subpar on its own and in comparison to the original is that it is trying too hard to be the original Footloose. Some things have obviously been updated, say goodbye to the boom box and hello to an Ipod. Ren still drives a VW Bug, now considered a classic. The cast has been updated to be interracial–a good change of course. Yet everyone in small-town Bomont still wear clothes that look like they are out of another decade–the teenagers included. The final dance even has Ren and Ariel in clothes that strikingly resemble the original ensembles worn by Kevin Bacon (Ren) and Lori Singer (Ariel). Just because you are re-making a classic teen film does not mean the teens have to wear the same clothes. The list goes on and on as to what Director Craig Brewer kept from the original and what he changed to bring this new version of Footloose to the screen. Keeping true to the original is great, if there was any reason to re-make the original film–and there was not. For those who have never seen the original and walk into this version it will feel disjointed. Much of the movie is taking place in another time, under another modernity, and it does not blend with the modernity of today, or the state of mind. Some movies have their places in time, Footloose‘s time was in 1984, and it really should have stayed there.
Mixing together the classic songs from the original Footloose soundtrack with modern tracks of today (that are a little bit country, a little bit blues) the soundtrack for Footloose (2011) continues the tradition of the original of being dance-rousing and lovelorn. There are five songs that have been re-done by new artists for the film and all but one holds up for those nostalgic of the original music that beget Footloose as a musical to be remembered. Blake Shelton has re-imagined the title song, “Footloose”, with great results–it still makes you want to kick off your shoes and dance upon first note. Jana Kramer’s “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” remains the quintessential song of Footloose glee, inciting giggles and exuberance from the viewer when NAME finds his dancing moves. Deniece Williams’ original may have been better, but Kramer’s does not disappoint. The same cannot be said for the new version of “Holding Out For A Hero” by Ella Mae Bowen. Bonnie Tyler’s original version was a strong empowered rock-ballad that forced you to stand up, sing-out, and belt out the chorus with every ounce of your being. Ella Mae Bowen has turned this iconic song into a slow and languid ballad, that will more quickly put you to sleep than make you want to pay attention. It also gets thrown into the background of a scene, immediately losing any sense of it being important to the storyline. While “Holding Out For a Hero” does leave you a tad bitter, every other song performs as it should, even if together they will never be as great as the originals.
The musical has a specific flow, a set-up for each and every action and musical number; or in this case dance number or diegetic musical influence. The first half of Footloose (2011) plays into the structure of a musical. Each song, and dance, correspond to a feeling or action of a character at the specific time in the film. A dance number is evoked out of an event that occurred prior to it, or vice-versa. Then Ren has his solo dance in the abandoned barn/factory. In the original Footloose this is where Kevin Bacon’s Ren made the ladies swoon with his dance moves and the ripping off of his shirt. He moved to the music, let it pulse through him, and all of his pent up emotions came spilling out onto the viewer through dance and music. Kenny Wormald’s Ren is not as strong of a dancer as Kevin Bacon, and the direction of the scene and music choice do not meld together. He dances around, pulls a little Eminem action with his sweatshirt, and makes a complete mockery out of the original scene. All of the emotion this number is meant to expel dies the minute the dance number gets about thirty seconds in when you realize the dancing and emotions do not synch up with the song choice. What was Director Craig Brewer thinking? We shall never know. It is quite evident there was not a great deal of thought put into it though.
As for the rest of the dance numbers, and there musical accompaniments, they work out as expected. Wanting to dance in the isles of a theatre is possible, as the main songs in Footloose are infectious as ever. The new music added, like the Big & Rich (featuring Gretchen Wilson) song “Fake I.D.”, will never be classics but they are enjoyable nonetheless. Can the actors dance in this version of Footloose? Sure, the mixture of country dancing and modern club-style is melded together well in the choreography. Footloose is not exactly about how well everyone dances though, it is more about the act of dancing, and they all get up and shake what they got as best as they can–you cannot exactly fault them for it. You can fault the production of the musical dance numbers themselves though for forgetting this is a musical, and a specific structure is in order. That order gets forgotten in Footloose (2011), turning into less of a movie about dancing and music as release and more about teenage angst, without great effect.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Craig BrewerRoger BirnbaumNeil Meron
- Producer(s): Dylan SellersBrad WestonCraig ZadanDean PitchfordCraig Bewer
- Screenwriter(s): Kenny Wormald (Ren McCormack)Julianne Hough (Ariel Moore)Dennis Quaid (Rev. Shaw Moore)
- Story: Ziah Colon (Rusty Rodriguez)
- Cast: Ray McKinnon (Wes)Miles Teller (Willard)Andie MacDowell (Vi Moore) Maggie Jones (Amy Warnicker)Ser’Darius William Blain (Woody)Billy FoxAmy VincentJon Gary Steele
- Cinematographer: Deborah Lurie
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA