Cutting loose, but close to home



dir. Craig Brewer

Release Date: Oct 14, 11

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There is something essentially and inextricably ’80s about Footloose. After all, what better decade to yield a film in which a rebellious young man vents his anger at the oppressive small town around him by executing meticulously choreographed, aggressive dance moves in an empty warehouse? Or, for that matter, where the most indecent activity imaginable to that town is ‘sinful dancing’? Depending on perspective, then, Craig Brewer’s remake will live or die for you based on how silly that idea seems when transposed to 2011.

Ren McCormick (Kenny Wormald) leaves Boston after his mother’s untimely death to stay with family in scenic Bomont, Tennessee. This is the country of God and football, and Ren’s (spotty) accent and Yankee attitude make him an immediate source of attention, good and bad alike. When he discovers the bans on dancing and loud music (after a post-kegger car wreck killed five high school seniors three years earlier), Ren sets out to make his mark on Bomont, to the appeal of Ariel (Julianne Hough) and the consternation of her preacher father (Dennis Quaid).

Footloose still succeeds today as a tale of the futility of repressing youth in the face of tragedy, and how letting kids blow off a little steam can actually help them grow up better adjusted than they would in an impenetrable world. With, you know, lots of dance sequences. The film is at its best when it has a wild-yet-light touch to its subject material, such as a training montage where Ren teaches his friend Willard (Miles Teller, a standout) how to dance, or a demolition derby sequence involving school buses. There’s also a sexiness to Footloose that the original lacked; the indecent dancing here actually earns its stripes, and it’s borderline creepy at points, even if Hough doesn’t quite pass for a high-schooler and Wormald looks at least five years her junior.

Though Footloose exceeds virtually any expectation (it has more soul in any ten minutes than the Step Up trilogy as a whole), it’s not without its problems. A subplot involving Ariel’s abusive stock-car driver boyfriend smacks of wheel-spinning to keep her away from Ren until the third act, and Quaid’s best efforts to give his stern preacher-man schtick any dimension are undercut by the film’s general sentiment of “stuffy religious guy blows, let’s party!” Footloose is a little heavy on the sentiment, which seems to rear its head only once every 15-20 minutes to remind you that this is a movie about Larger Social Problems, when it really just wants to be a good time. Still, this isn’t even the worst remake of this weekend, let alone the waste of time most predicted, so let’s hear it for the boys.

(I had to. I’m so sorry.)