I grew up in the 80s. My high school days were in full swing when the original Footloose hit theatres back in 1984.
Footloose by Kenny Loggins and Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for the Hero were probably a mainstay on every mix tape I made back then.
Wow, mix tapes. I miss searching for that perfect mix combo from a limited amount of CDs. But the thought of mix tapes and just how far back 1984 was I guess Footloose could have used some dusting off for a new generation of rebels.
I was really happy to hear that Craig Brewer was going to direct the remake. With his films Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan, Brewer was able to bring cinephiles unique visions.
He paved new territory and is a rebel filmmaker. I thought if anyone could find new territory in Footloose it was Craig Brewer and he did.
He found so much to play with you almost wish he didn’t have the structure of the Footloose story to stick to.
Footloose, as we all know, is about a Southern town that bans their teens from dancing after a horrible auto accident. Instead of dealing with the grief, the town’s preacher (Dennis Quaid) decides to shelter his congregation. His decision leads to his own daughter’s (Julianne Hough) teen rebellion. When city boy Ren (Kenny Wormald) arrives in town, he becomes frustrated that he can’t listen to his music and dance when he wants to. So he teams up with the preacher’s daughter tries to bring freedom back to the town.
It is kind of an unlikely story for today’s world and Elvis springs to mind when I think of it. But it worked in the 80s and believe it or not it also worked today. I am sure there are small towns like this out there somewhere.
Footloose isn’t a half-baked remake. The songs from the Broadway musical where Footloose debuted are still there even if they are tucked away in places. I liked how they used the Kenny Loggins version at the beginning of the film leading into the car wreck. It is almost a metaphor to the way Brewer was going to bust open his remake. Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero is shoehorned into a sappy ballad which I thought was awful. (It is almost as bad as if they made Back in Black into a ballad.) But I liked the other new versions of the songs. Let’s Hear it for the Boy was a lot of fun, in particular.
Placing the music to the side, we have stoic performances from Dennis Quaid and Ray McKinnon. Quaid had some hard shoes to fill after John Lithgow’s amazing performance in the original. But his restrained and focused performance really showed a conflicted man in mourning. I am also really starting to like McKinnon, who was last seen taking on SAMCRO in FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Here he is strong and supportive of his rebellious teen nephew (Ren) which we don’t see a lot of in movies these days.
The tone and attitude of the film reminded me a lot of the very underrated TV series Friday Night Lights where kids just wanna be kids but are restricted by rules. Ren’s relationship with his uncle plus the preacher and daughter felt very much like they could have been from that great series.
Then there are newcomers Hough and Wormald. Hough has a spark in her and in a couple scenes there could be some range.
Wormald looks kind of similar to James Dean except he drives a Volkswagen Bug. But Wormald can really dance.
You have got the chemistry and two kids who can bust a move so you are set.
There was also something about these two new faces. They aren’t your typical Hollywood clones they both have a unique look in the film and I wonder if that has something to with Brewer’s vision for the film.
The ending of the film really left me unsatisfied. The compromise, the redneck brawl and a very short dance. It’s like the film slammed on the breaks and went ‘oh right we need an ending’. I really think the third act could have used some polish.
I was surprised how much I liked the film after growing up with the original and loving the 1984 soundtrack so much. Except for a few flaws here and there, I would have to say that this is a really successful remake.
3.5 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer