There have been a lot of remakes and when it was originally announced that Zac Effron was going to be filling the shoes of Kevin Bacon in the remake of Footloose it seemed liked they were going to Disney-fy one of MTV Generation’s first movies. Then director Craig Brewer was brought on board and Effron’s name quietly disappeared from the project. Instead a Justin Timberlake back up dancer, Kenny Wormald, took the helm as Ren McCormack, along with Dancing with the Star’s Julianne Hough stepping into the red cowboy boots of Ariel Moore, Dennis Quaid as her father Rev. Shaw Moore and Andie MacDowell as Mrs. Vi Moore.
Following the basic plot of the original except for some key points, Ren comes to Bomont, Georgia from Boston after his mother’s passing from leukemia to live with his Aunt and Uncle. After discovering that there is a ban on various things, including a strict curfew, dancing and the type of music that can be played, he tries to fight the town council to bring a prom to his school.
There are a lot of things this movie does right. As much as I love the original, it was a movie made by its soundtrack not the other way around. It was muddled and the characters were a bit pathetic and angsty for no real reason other than they should be for the plot to move along. In this movie, it is made very clear why people are doing what they are doing. We understand why Ren feels compelled to try and get the rule against dancing reversed. We also understand why the Rev. Moore felt there was a need for it in the first place. And unlike the original, it is made clear that Ariel has survivor’s guilt. She isn’t just a wild child, she is lost. Even the relationship she is in with Chuck, played by Patrick John Flueger, is more flushed out and it is driven home how bad that relationship really is for her.
What is truly the best part of the movie though is Miles Teller as Ren’s best friend Willard. He manages to make this character both naïve and witty. There is a charm that radiates from him that shadows his other “teen” counterparts and really can only be matched on screen by Quaid and Ray McKinnon, who plays Ren’s uncle Wes Warnicker. And these gentlemen have years of experience on this kid to have developed that charm. I could have watched a movie with the three of them and would have been pleased as punch.
What doesn’t work are all the homages, and there are a lot of them. Some of them are done well, but some just fall flat. Whether it is replicating a scene, wardrobe choices or recycling music from the original these nods are littered throughout. As much as I love the music from the original, they are staples in my iPod, it would have been okay to have brought in some more new music for some of the scenes, but I caught more than just a couple of the original songs in the movie and though they were great for the 80s but that was 30 years ago. There really only had to be one song for obvious reasons that had to be in the movie. When the original Kenny Loggins’ Footloose is played it is done effectively well, it would have been okay to have another song play instead of a redone version of the same song for the ending.
This movie is cheesy, but so was the original. This movie has a lot of teen angst, but so did the original. This is a good family film that both kids and parents can enjoy together. And for the kids who grew up on High School Musical, instead of Grease like their parents, maybe they can watch and feel how their parents felt when they saw the original Footloose and for one very brief moment understand they were young once too. And maybe we will see red cowboy boots come back into fashion.