Footloose: Film Review

Footloose is back.

BIG MISTAKE.

So big, in fact, I had to give the entire phrase its own paragraph. You might be thinking, “Wow, another Hollywood remake of a classic that went very, very wrong. Big surprise.”

Well, you’re right. Completely right, in fact. Hollywood, despite the fact that it aspires to a certain level of “art”, is in fact not a creative industry. If it were, we’d only see remakes when they were absolutely necessary improvements upon original ideas that had somehow lost their way in the execution. The 2011 incarnation of Footloose is no such movie.

The main problem is likely that the remake is based literally on the original’s screenplay. I don’t mean an updated or adapted screenplay to make concessions for circumstances that may have changed between 2011 and 1984. I mean it uses the exact same screenplay, word for word, song for song, and gyration for gyration.

Why, exactly?

If the makers were concerned that the film would be reviled by purists who felt the remake was too far off the tread of the original, well, they were only half right: the film will be reviled by purists, though for the exact opposite reason: a remake should change something about the original in a meaningful or at least entertaining way. Footloose fails profoundly on this account. In fact, it fails galactically.

Clearly, Paramount was either too lazy or too fearful to try something new with the story, a story which you should by now know by heart: back in the Dark Ages of America (meaning, like, last week) a southern town had banned dancing because its mayor hailed from the Ruling Class of the Appalachian Taliban.

Well, almost: a group of teenagers die in a car crash after a crazy high school kegger, which compels the Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) to outlaw music and dance. I didn’t know a reverend had such political sway . . . gotta love the South.

Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) arrives in the quaint but still and silent town of Bomont from the Devil’s Playground that is Boston, Massachusetts. Inevitably, he rouses the ire of the town folk for, one, breaking the law by playing his radio too loud (I imagine the residents of Kabul and Tehran face much the same penal grievance) and two, for flirting openly with Ariel (Julianne Hough), the reverend’s daughter who has apparently been “claimed” by the town jughead bully, Chuck Cranston. You know the rest, even if you haven’t seen the original.

Apart from the fact that the film has no real reason to exist, its worst offense is in the casting. Wormald has none of Kevin Bacon’s understated charm or charisma, and comes across as just another smiling pretty boy whose main interest is in preserving his prettiness. Yes, the boy can dance, but can he sustain a major motion picture? Sorry Wormy, methinks not.

I am hardly crazy about the original, but this remake made me long for the days when Blockbusters were still around in great numbers and where the discount bin was specially reserved for movies like this remake, which were never destined for the big screen.

Sometimes nostalgia is a bad thing.

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