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"FOOTLOOSE"
(2011) (Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Following his mother's death, a teen moves from Boston to a small southern town where he falls for the preacher's rebellious daughter and ends up challenging the reverend's and the others' ban on dancing and other "wild" teen behavior.
PLOT:
Following the death of his mother, high school gymnast Ren McCormack (KENNY WORMALD) is forced to move from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont where he lives with his aunt and uncle, Lulu (KIM DICKENS) and Wes Warnicker (RAY McKINNON). Bomont is a sleepy little place, especially since there's been a ban on dancing and other "wild" teenage behavior following the deaths several years earlier of several teens following a night of partying and dancing.

Chief among the proponents of that ban is Reverend Shaw Moore (DENNIS QUAID) whose son was among those killed. Since then, his teenage daughter, Ariel (JULIANNE HOUGH), has become something of a wild child, attending secret dance gatherings and fooling around with the likes of local race car driver Chuck Cranston (PATRICK JOHN FLUEGER). That's much to the chagrin of Ariel's best friend, Rusty Rodriguez (ZIAH COLON), who thinks she's behaving irresponsibly.

That doesn't mean, however, Rusty hides her obvious attraction to good ol' boy Willard (MILES TELLER) who ends up befriending Ren, as does high school football captain Woody (SER'DARIUS WILLIAM BLAIN) and others. But Chuck isn't happy to see Ren enter the picture, especially when it's obvious that Ariel is attracted to the newcomer. That latter development also doesn't sit well with Shaw, particularly when Ren starts to question the town's ban on dancing.

While having to deal with being the new guy in school and the community, Ren then decides it's up to him to take a stand and fight not only for Ariel, but also what he thinks is right in terms of that dancing and other teen behavior.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Remakes of previous Hollywood films are nothing new and have occurred for decades. They seem to be at a fever pitch nowadays, though, with barely a month going by that we don't see yet another familiar title, characters and plot up on the screen. Since it's becoming increasingly pointless trying to fight the system, it seems we just have to accept the remakes.

In that vein, why not have some fun imagining the pitch session of putting one together? There's the usual question of what to include or exclude from the original, who to place in the key roles, how much of the storyline to use, any updating for current times, and even whether there should be one or more cameos from the original cast.

Let's take the iconic 1984 movie "Footloose" for example. In that film, Kevin Bacon played a Chicago teen who moved to a small and highly religious town ruled by a bunch of morally conservative parents, including the local reverend (played by John Lithgow). Ren is shocked to learn that even dancing has been outlawed there and that the resident "wild child" girl, Ariel (Lori Singer), is actually the minister's teenage daughter. With the help of his new good ol' boy friend (Christopher Penn), he decides to challenge the anti-dancing law of the land so that he and rest of the teens can have a prom and end up as the title suggests.

Imagine then, that 27 years have passed, Ren has grown up, found religion, and had kids of his own (whether he married Ariel is up to you), and then tragedy struck. After a night of partying, a number of teens were killed in an auto accident, thus resulting in Bacon's character doing a complete 180 and suddenly -- in parent and minister mode -- deciding to ban such activities in order to "save" the other kids. Then, a few years later, an out-of-town teen shows up and decides to buck the system just like his predecessor did all those years ago.

Now that would have been an interesting spin on remaking a film (and could have been a good reason to include some of the signature songs from the original, both as the local kids mocking the enforcer of their ban and then as an homage once everyone is on the same side of the issue). Heck, if anything, it just would have allowed Bacon to further extend his "six degrees" fame with a younger generation.

Alas, the veteran actor doesn't appear in the film (Dennis Quaid inherits the part from Lithgow), but some of the songs (most notably the title one as well as "Let's Hear It For the Boy") do show up, as does much of the plot and characters. The result -- helmed by Craig Brewer from a screenplay he co-wrote with Dean Pitchford (who also wrote the original) -- isn't a masterpiece by any means and may come off as sacrilegious to diehard aficionados of the original. For everyone else, however, it's a decent offer notwithstanding the fact that it's an unnecessary remake hoping to cash in on the reputation of its earlier incarnation.

Let's face it, as iconic as it may have been and might still be, the original film was nothing tremendous. But it resonated with younger audience members who identified with teen rebelliousness, questioning authority and the old Will Smith breakout song, "Parents Just Don't Understand" (no, that wasn't in the original -- it came out 4 years later -- but it played on the same themes and mindsets).

Here, Bacon's part goes to Kenny Wormald, a relative unknown which actually works to his and the film's favor as the part was reportedly originally intended for Zac Efron. Relocated from the original Chicago to Boston, the character has all of the requisite attributes to play well to the target viewers, which also holds true for Julianne Hough (from TV's "Dancing with the Stars") in the Ariel part.

The two have a good if predictable chemistry together, although some viewers -- including yours truly -- may be distracted by her uncanny resemblance here to a young Jennifer Aniston. Quaid is decent in his role, while Miles Teller essentially recreates Christopher Penn's performance as the cowboy type who gets a dancing lesson montage of his own, and Ziah Colon takes over the part originated by Sarah Jessica Parker.

There's still the "I'm angry so I must dance to release it" solo dance sequence featuring Ren (which is still as goofy as the first time around) and the scene where Ren lists dancing references in the Bible to prove that shaking one's groove thing isn't a sin, while other elements have been altered but still have the same result. That includes the scene of our protagonist and his antagonist having the earlier game of chicken on tractors initially looking as if it's going to involve bulldozers, but then uses demolition derby buses.

If there's one complaint (beyond the remake issue) it's that there isn't enough dancing, especially for a movie about just that. Yet, since that pesky ban is in place for most of the film, I suppose that's somewhat acceptable. After all, if everyone was dancing all of the time, the theme of needing to buck the system and stand up for what you believe in would have been fairly neutered. Maybe there will be more dancing in the future remake of 1984's other dance flick, "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo." Until then, we'll have to kick off our Sunday shoes and lose our blues with this most recent incarnation of "Footloose." It rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed September 22, 2011 / Posted October 14, 2011


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