Sam: The human mind is attracted to the seemingly unattainable. Just look through the test of time of our culture. In the 1920’s when prohibition transpired, the amount of alcohol purchased and consumed, nearly doubled. Even now with the refusal of legalizing marijuana, citizens smoking habits have greatly increased, making cannabis the number one cash crop of California. The list goes on.
In Footloose, a long-winded, yet charming re-telling of the beloved 1984 classic, the town of Bomont has banned public displays of dancing. Why? Because three years before the story begins, four high school seniors, driving home from a smashing dance party, got into a terrible car accident. No one survived. But everyone in the town was devastated. This tragic event resulted in a plethora of new restrictions: mainly including your loss of rights to openly dance or listen to music loud.
We pick up the story with Ren MacCormack (played by newcomer Kenny Wormald) leaving city life and Boston after his mother passes with leukemia. He moves in with his Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon) in small town Bomont, Georgia. Unlike the majority of high school romps where the new kid is instantly a fish out of water, Ren, with his biting sarcasm and edgy dance moves, makes friends fast. Though adapting to the slower, kinder, and Christian-inspired atmosphere is no easy feat for the teen, he eventually finds his niche.
However, his transparent rebellion nature eventually fades through his pseudo smile. Repulsed by a law forbidding dancing in a public forum (unless under strict parental supervision), Ren decides to take a stand and fight for what he loves: the art of dance. To add controversy to the mix, Ren falls for Ariel Moore (Julianna Hough) a beautiful, lively blonde whose father happens to be the town’s preacher and the man who brought about all those city ordinances three years ago.
Dancing, romance, and moral complexities are all a part of the blend in Craig Brewer’s jaunty tale of the human spirit. Purposely so, I avoided watching the original 1984 Footloose. Though allegedly penned with fine qualities (Kevin Bacon in the lead), it felt only fair to watch the retelling with an open mind: no expectations or personal awareness of a product, perhaps superior. Once again, films never ceases to surprise me.
Footloose is jam-packed with caricatures, oddly timed and choreographed dance numbers, as well as didactic Christian themes. Yet somehow, there is no doubt that this film is rather enjoyable. Director Craig Brewer contains some juicy storytelling techniques, along with a script filled with shockingly intelligent and witty dialogue. The characters, though plagued with frustrating stereotypes are affable enough to gain our attention and ultimately, our affection.
Perhaps the release time of the film is better now than ever, given the state of the economy. Footloose is a delightful and endearing fantasy, one that is bound to be welcomed by audience members attempting to escape the horrors of reality. What the film severely lacks in realism is ultimately made up for in spades with happiness and unparalleled optimism.
(2.5 Stars out of 4)
You can follow me on twitter @DukeSensation
Paolo: I write about the Footloose remake by not having seen the original although yes, I did get a glimpse of the exuberant final prom scene. This new incarnation of high-schooler Ren McCormack looks like a matinee idol but he also comes from the rough streets of Boston. So when he’s sent away to his mother’s hometown in Bomont, Georgia, he undergoes quite the culture shock. He learns the three R’s of the South — readin,’ ‘ritin,’ and redneckery as well as experiences first hand the xenophobia and archaic laws of the small town. Most revolting to him is a law prohibiting public dancing which was prompted by a tragic event three years before Ren’s arrival – five high school seniors died after driving home from one of those dance parties.
Bomont’s ordinance has support from most of the town’s adults, including the local judge who initially wanted to throw the book at Ren for disturbing the peace and the town’s preacher (Dennis Quaid) who chastises the evils of technological progress. In a way, this reflects the American condition of the past decade. Citizens, shell shocked by tragedies, have become backward for the sake of “safety” and protecting their children. And Bomont’s youth, as well as America’s, have finally realized that this protection has come in the way of their rights and naturally, they rebel.
These kids have angst but that doesn’t mean that their rebellion is angry. They decide that they are going to enjoy themselves as young people should. They organize illegal dances, black teenagers pulling out some fancy footwork next to their white classmates, grinding on each other while blaring forbidden rap music. These same interracial group of friend break curfew and drive to Atlanta and have their fun while line dancing. Ren pursues the non-virginal preacher’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough), her best friend shackles up with his archetypal loud Southerner of a new best friend Willard (scene-stealing Miles Teller). The four of them participate in the occasional and well-acted friendly horseplay and a bar brawl or two.
These misadventures are depicted well by Craig Brewer, who also directed films set in the South like Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan. He encourages the Southern small-town locality within the characters, incorporating risky elements in the story that make this remake worth watching.
Notes: Rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language, 113 minutes.