Mark Reviews Movies

Footloose (2011)


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Craig Brewer

Cast: Kenny Wormlad, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller, Ray McKinnon, Patrick John Flueger, Andie MacDowell, Kim Dickens

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language)

Running Time: 1:53

Release Date: 10/14/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 17, 2011

The remake of Footloose opens with a scene that's only suggested in the 1984 original. In it, a group of teens dances the night away at a barn—an impromptu celebration just for the hell of it. Beer helps fuel the party, and then, the revelry continues on the car ride home. The boy leans over to kiss his best girl, and that's the end of the joy for everyone. The lights of a semi truck blind the life inside, and a head-on collision and a fire snuff it out for good.

The movie's screenplay is by and large a complete rehash of the original with the exact same dialogue in many scenes, and as such, Dean Pitchford, the screenwriter of the first movie, is credited here—either for actual work in the few bits of new material or simply because so much of the writing comes from his initial screenplay. Whatever the scenario, the remake is a slight improvement on its predecessor in part because it forces us to deal with the emotional justification for why a town's government would take it upon itself to outlaw something as harmless as public dancing.

That point has always seemed rather silly, even if it is indeed based on fact—namely a small town in Oklahoma that banned dancing for nearly a century. In the original, the setup was seen as nothing more than a perfectly good excuse for some clean, fun teenage rebellion with clear-cut heroes (The teens who just want to have a good time) and villains (The devoutly religious adults who are so concerned with their children's safety and moral development that they hold a book burning to prove it). Director Craig Brewer, who co-wrote the script, gives us the same premise but sees the resulting conflict as one that stems from a place of unbridled grief. Brewer can also stage and shoot a dance sequence in a way that the movement can be wholly appreciated, and those scenes become infectiously entertaining.

Immediately after the opening accident, Brewer cuts to a close-up of Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), the pastor of a local church, giving a mournful eulogy for the victims, including his only son. We anticipate a congregation at a memorial service or funeral, but when the shot opens up in a subtle reveal, we instead learn this is a town council meeting, where the votes come in to outlaw the playing of "inappropriate" music or public dancing within the town of Bomont.

Three years later, Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) arrives in Bomont to live with his uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon) and aunt Lulu (Kim Dickens) after the death of his mother from leukemia. He already has a job lined up at a nearby cotton gin and fixes up an old car for his personal transportation, but his "Yankee sarcasm" gets the better of him when he's pulled over for blaring his music while driving.

Meanwhile, Ariel (Julianne Hough), the preacher's daughter, has been living the relatively fast life, from going all the way with her stockcar-racing boyfriend Chuck (Patrick John Flueger) to lying to her father about studying with friends when she's really heading out to the local drive-in theater, where the proprietor blasts more-than-likely-illegal hip hop music through the speakers so that the kids can dance. There, Ren shows off his city-boy moves and catches the ire of Chuck, who doesn't much appreciate the new kid in town dancing with his girlfriend.

If one has seen the original, one knows how this version, which even keeps some of the songs from the soundtrack, plays. Ren still becomes friends with Willard (Miles Teller), a helpless guy who can't even country line dance, and teaches him how to snap in rhythm and move with the beat. He and Ariel still develop a romance as she works out her issues of trying to earn the kind of affectionate attention from her father that seems to have died with her brother. Ren still battles the powers-that-be to try to make them change their minds about the silly dance law so that his classmates might have a formal dance before the school year ends.

Brewer's interpretation has a better handle on its characters than the original, though, and, like the opening, fatal car crash, it includes few scenes that flesh out the scenario in a more sympathetic way. Of particular note is a late scene between Ren and Shaw, which starts as a quick flash of mistaken identity (Ren sits, listening to Shaw practice his sermon, in the same pew in which Shaw's son used to sit) and grows into them consoling each other with their memories of the death of a loved one. It improves a couple, too, mostly the competition between Ren and Chuck, which now takes place during a race of gaudily decorated school buses.

The biggest improvement is in the dance sequences, and even the cheesiest one (Ren dancing out his frustrations in an abandoned warehouse) sort of works this time around. Brewer keeps the action primarily in long shots and takes, allowing for extensive coverage, and the choreography of the camera is almost geometric in its spatial awareness of visual planes (A few tracking shots stay parallel to the actor or actors, and pans are simple and symmetrical). It succeeds about as well as this material could.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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