By Gary Murray
Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid
Written by Dean Pitchford and Craig Brewer
Directed by Craig Brewer
Running time 115 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
Footloose was a 1984 Kevin Bacon film that struck a chord with the youth at the time. The story of a big city kid who has to move to a small town were dancing is abolished was a very ‘80’s kind of film, low on plot and high on flash. It is very much a document of its time, with catchy tunes and MTV style editing. It did two very different things; it made Kevin Bacon a superstar and it made dancing cool again. In the intellectual vacuum that is Hollywood, remakes of 1980’s films have become the norm so we now have a new version of Footloose.
The film takes place in Bomont, Georgia and Ren (Kenny Wormald) is the new kid in town. This Boston boy is all full of big city ideas that don’t sit too well with the status quo. Three years ago a group of teenagers were killed coming back from a rowdy, drunken party. The local preacher Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) blames the entire accident on unruly teenagers who don’t mind their parents. So, the town enacts strict curfews on all those under 18 and bans dancing. Every young person thinks that it is unfair. They can’t even have prom.
Ren makes fast friend with Willard (Miles Teller) the local who guides our misplaced youth through the ropes of small town Georgia. He also catches the eye of Ariel (Julianne Hough) the preacher’s daughter who has a very wild streak. She takes up with the local bad boy racer. The challenge race between the racer and Ren is one of the more interesting aspects of the film.
The film is of the romance between Ariel and Ren and how Ren takes on the establishment to have dancing permitted in Bomont. It is very much Film 101, with simple plot ideas and obvious structure.
One of my biggest problems with this Footloose is in the structure of the character of Ariel. She is the wild preacher’s daughter, a cliché done to death. But she is also a horrible person. Vain and self-centered at the beginning, the character is way too much of a pain to be a young woman to pursue. The Ren McCormack character has to look past a whole lot of ‘bitch’ to see the other aspects of this girl. In the real world, he would have walked away–no female is worth all that attitude.
The film is inherently racist. All of the ‘bad’ people, those who want to stop the dancing are mostly old and as white bread as a Wonder loaf. The cool older people who defy the law are all black. The film is also inherently sexist. Almost every shot of Julianne Hough in the first half of the movie is either a butt shot in skin tight jeans or half clothed sexy. She is used more like a piece of meat than an actress. Eventually, she proves that she can dance and act, but that is way after all the cheesecake aspects have been worn down to the nub.
Without giving too much away, the ending feels as it if it jarred into the plot. It comes almost out of nowhere with characters acting in different ways than the first 7/8th of the film. Someone realized that films build to a giant confrontation, but here it felt no so much tagged on as smashed onto the rear, like a collision. This version of Footloose is darker and more violent than its much older cinematic cousin.
With all the product tie-ins, this film is more being marketed as a consumer concept that as a motion picture. MTV is behind this picture and they are genius at pushing a brand. This film runs more like an advertising marketing plan than a bit of cinema, pushing products for the youth to consume.
There are some elements that did work in this version of Footloose. The music just flows with a pop and sizzle. There are numbers from the original film but done with different artists. The two male leads Kenny Wormald and Miles Teller not only natural actors but they work well together in their scenes. It takes very little to believe that they become such fast friends. Kenny especially tries to channel James Dean in his manners and haircut. Andie MacDowell plays the minister’s wife Vi with a much laid back grace. She still has that magic charm that the camera loves.
Dennis Quaid looked more lost in his reading. He never comes across as our villain just a guy out of his element. This role required a jolt of fire that is lost here.
The last Footloose was made for me, this version is not. The target audience will probably embrace this take on the story just like the audience years ago did. It is more of a product of its age than a film for generations. As long as kids and adults clash, a film like Footloose will exist.