FOOTLOOSE ( 2011 ) – The Review
FOOTLOOSE, the movie that made a cinema icon of future trivia game star Kevin Bacon. Since that film’s release there’s been a full-fledged Broadway stage musical ( now a staple of community theatre groups ) with original songs combined with the movie’s radio-friendly pop tunes. This is not a film version of that. The characters do not burst into song, but there’s plenty of spontaneous dance numbers set to re-mixes of those 84 movie tunes and a few new songs. Will this new film from director Craig Brewer ( HUSTLE AND FLOW ) become the dance-along entertainment of future sleepovers and pajama parties?
The film opens in mid-party three years ago. The high school seniors of Bomont, Tennessee are drinkin’ and dancin’ the night away. But that night of fun ends in tragedy as five of them are killed when a truck plows into their car head on. One of the victims is Bobby, son of Reverend Shaw Moore ( Dennis Quaid ). He speaks eloquently before he votes with the town council to ban public dancing within city limits , to the surprise of his wife ( Andie McDowell ) and daughter Areal ( Julianna Hough ). Jump ahead to the present day as young Ren McCarthy ( Kenny Wormald ) arrives in town. His mother died back in Boston ( Dad bailed on them ) and he’s come to live with his Aunt ( Kim Dickens ), her husband ( Ray McKinnon) and their two grade school age daughters. He’s stunned by the town’s ordinances ! And he’s given a ticket for playing his music too loud in the old VW bug he’s just fixed up! At church Ren is introduced to the Reverend and his family ( could there be sparks between him and Ariel? ). Seems that since the big accident Ariel’s been acting out. She’s fooling around with the older, thuggish, son of the owner of the local stock car track. Flirting with danger? Ren gets a job at a cotton gin, starts high school, joins the football squad, and befriends a team mate, Willard (Miles Teller ). He takes Ren to the local drive-in movie which doubles as a secret dance club. There Ren finally shares some sweet moves with Ariel ( to the consternation of her brutish beau ). From there Ren makes new friends and clashes with some of the adults ( particularly the Reverend ) as he decides to try and fight the dance band while getting closer to the lovely Ariel. With plenty of big musical numbers along the way.
So is this a big improvement in the original? Not by much. The dances are a bit more energetic, but they’re difficult to fully appreciate with the rapid, whiplash editing ( this is, after all, an MTV Production ). I’m reminded of how the great Fred Astaire reacted to new movie musicals. He thought the full body should always be shown during dance numbers. Can’t argue with “Mr. Top Hat”! With the new version Brewer works in some break-dancing and krunk along with country line dancing which often breaks the flow of action. As far as the acting the 84 model has it way over this. Screen newcomer Kenny Wormald has some athletic dance moves, but doesn’t have the same dangerous bad boy vibe of young Kevin Bacon. When he arrives in Bomont he looks like a prep-schooler on his way to audition for ” Grease “. It doesn’t help that by the film’s mid-point he’s hitting the Boston accent ” wicked haahhrd”. Hough of TV’s ” Dancing with the Stars” also has moves to spare, but flounders in some of the third act big dramatic scenes. Surprisingly, the usually energetic Quaid seems to be muzzled as a pretty soft-spoken pastor. The same goes for McDowell as his wife who doesn’t have much to do till close to the finale. There are a few bright spots in the cast. McKinnon shines as Ren’s sympathetic Uncle ( wish I could’ve seen more of the terrific Kim Dickens as his Aunt ). The movie’s MVP may be Miles Teller who shines in a loose, upbeat portrayal of Ren’s new best pal, the rhythmically-challenged, but sweet doofus Willard. For the pre-teen set, this will make for a great fun group night out at the multi-plex. For the rest of us, this new version may leave us appreciating that relic from long ago. Still any version of the Kenny Loggins tune is a toe-tapper.
Overall Rating: Three Out of Five Stars