2 stars (out of 4)
Not much has changed in the Bible Belt backwater of Bomont since the clock last stopped there in 1984.
Unlicensed pets and unleashed teen libidos are still a scourge. The burgh and its 19,300 residents (this includes cows) are still ruled by a despotic preacher who forbids the public shaking of booty.
Bomont is a lot like Hollywood, in other words, both being places where originality and creative thinking are ruthlessly hunted down and hounded into submission.
Thus the 2011 remake of Footloose is virtually a beat-for-beat copy of its Reagan-era forebear, and you almost have to admire such quaint obstinacy.
Director Craig Brewer could have tried to funk the thing up, as he did for his earlier dramas Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan. But apart from adding a few hip-hop notes to Kenny Loggins’ catchy title hit, and slipping a few non-Caucasians into the Bomont mix, Brewer sticks to the plain vanilla basics, declining to bust fresh moves or introduce new songs.
He even has the nerve to put his name as a co-writer on the screenplay, when the most sweat he likely expended on that was running the Xerox machine to copy Dean Pitchford’s original script.
Barely a line has been rewritten, and only the faces — with noticeably more makeup — have been changed for the characters, with some tweaks.
Foot-flouting Ren MacCormack now hails from Boston rather than Chicago, and he’s played by good dancer Kenny Wormald rather than great actor Kevin Bacon. Ren stills drives a ridiculous beige VW bug, although now he’s a complete orphan rather than being merely fatherless.
Dancing-banning Reverend Shaw Moore is now played by Dennis Quaid rather than John Lithgow. His disobedient daughter Ariel is played by Julianne Hough (TV’s Dancing with the Stars), replacing Lori Singer, and his mostly obedient wife Vi is now meekly essayed by Andie MacDowell rather than Dianne Wiest.
None of the changes improves on the original Footloose, even though the two young leads are both professional dancers — didn’t the budget allow for anything more than raft swinging and barn hoofing?
But it must be said that Footloose ’11 doesn’t diminish Footloose ’84, perhaps because the film is eternally warmed by the hot hips and sweaty brows of nostalgia.
It’s still the evergreen saga of idealistic youth vs. hidebound elders, set in a town that knows neither pity, nor dance parties. In one slight change from the sainted text, a nod to today’s more visceral times, we now see the drunken teen party and ensuing five-death crash that results in the Bomont dance ban. Previously, it had just been referred to in sombre tones and pious “Praise the Lords.”
The booty shake ban is decreed by Rev. Moore, who lost his son in the crash, and it’s ratified by town elders who are probably still in shock over Elvis Presley’s wiggling hips on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Moore once again blames the crash on the “spiritual corruption” of teen pop tunes, ignoring the fact the tragedy was caused by excessive drinking, not energetic dancing.
The highly confused Rev is also tasked with enforcing the ban, a difficult thing to do when his daughter is the town’s most aggressive hottie, as quick to leap between the sheets as the dance floor.
She gets to do both, one seen and the other not — the film has been cut for America’s mild PG-13 rating — and there are no prizes for guessing what happens when she and Ren team to fight the town’s jitterbug jihad. Clue: you get to hear Kenny Loggins wail again.
The rebooted Footloose isn’t as bad as feared, but neither is it the least bit necessary. If it achieves anything, it would be in steering people back for another look at the ’84 model, which still moves well.
The original movie also had the late Chris Penn, Sean’s brother, in his most winsome role as Ren’s two-left-feet friend Willard, and a very young Sarah Jessica Parker as Ariel’s pal, before she was sexing it up in the big city. That’s nostalgia you can really move to.
Peter Howell is a syndicated movie critic for the Toronto Star.