Special to South Florida Times
When the dance film Footloose was released in 1984, I was a year old. Growing up I heard about it, but never had a burning desire to see it. With Footloose having gotten remake treatment in 2011, I figured I would finally see the film that became a cult hit, the day before seeing the newer version.
Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the experience. At 28, I am too young to have seen the original, yet too old to appreciate the 2011 version.
When it was first announced that Footloose would be remade, my first thought, as with every other remake, was: Why? We, the audience members of the Millennium Generation, do not need another dance film. We’ve had Honey, Save the Last Dance, Save the Last Dance 2, You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, Stomp the Yard 2, and How She Move. Columbus Short starred and danced in three of them. So I didn’t really see a burning need for a remake.
By comparison with the Herbert Ross-directed original film, the latter is better, especially if you’re younger than the “Millennials” born between 1980 and 1995. For the uninitiated, the story goes something like this:
Ren (played by Kenny Wormald) a “troubled” young man (read: city boy in a small town) comes to Bomont to live with his Uncle Wes and Aunt Lulu (Ray McKinnon and Kim Dickens, respectively). His mother has just passed away from leukemia, his father ran off when his mother first became ill. Ren acquaints himself very quickly with the customs and laws of Bomont — like their ban against public dancing — and promptly breaks them. Ren’s behavior catches the eye of the town preacher, Reverend Moore (Dennis Quaid) and the reverend’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough).
Being that I am not a fan of the first film, I had pretty low expectations for the remake. So the fact that I basically saw the same film twice with different actors kind of grated on my nerves.
If you take a random sampling of the teenagers of today, they would have a different opinion. These opinions are probably due to the aggressive social media marketing and the hot young actors who do hot young dance moves.
Not so with Footloose. One of my pet peeves with both versions is that Ren uses his acrobatic dance moves and death-defying stunts to blow off steam and let out some anger. This scene, albeit a classic one, didn’t work for the first or the second film. The last duel between Ren, Willard (Miles Teller), Chuck (Patrick John Flueger) and friends outside of their prom seems out of place with the plot and only serves as a form of climax to the story. Unfortunately, the climax, just as with the original, fails to reach any intensity.
If you twisted my arm to say some good things about this film, I would have to say there are a few things that save the 2011 version from going the way of cheese. A large black presence plays well with this story. Then again, all of the black people are good dancers. You can take whatever meaning you like from that. I’m just glad to see dark-skinned faces in a big budget film.
Wormald, with his fake Boston accent and wooden acting, is a good dancer. He also has enough charm to almost cancel out the bad accent and acting. Hough stretches her little acting muscles as Ariel. She’s not bad; but she’s not that good either. Ziah Colon, who takes on the Sarah Jessica Parker role as Rusty, tries very hard to muster up a decent hick accent. But she should have just stayed true to her own roots, as Parker did in the 1984.
The real breakout star, though, is Teller. Looking at the original, Chris Penn, who played Willard, was the most engaging and likable character of the film. This year, Teller is the most engaging and likable player in Footloose. He’s got great comedic timing, killer dance moves and the kind of disposition that really draws in an audience.
Despite being the exact same story as the original, the latest version of Footloose is a decent film that will delight audience members 18 years old and under. For the rest of us, I can name a few other dance films that would be put to better use for your hard-earned money during this recession. See paragraph two.
Photo: by K.C. Bailey
Hoofing it: Julianne Hough as Ariel Moore and Kenny Wormald as Ren MacCormack in Paramount Pictures' Footloose.