Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
Where, oh where, to begin. Part of the freakish, seemingly unstoppable Hollywood remake train, Footloose is now having its legacy tarnished with a hip, fresh, updated version nobody but the people pulling the financial strings wanted to see made in the first place.
The core elements are all
rehashed intact. A city boy (this time from Boston instead of Chicago) gets shipped off to a small town. That town has outlawed dancing and loud music, all in an attempt to keep its teenagers safe from their own natural temptations. Of course, there’s a Preacher (Dennis Quaid steps up to John Lithgow’s pulpit) and a Preacher’s daughter (bye bye Lori Singer, hello Julianne Hough), who’s not quite the virtuous girl Daddy would like to think she is. The Boston rebel with a heart of gold (Kenny Wormald fills the dancing shoes of Kevin Bacon) falls for the slutty not quite Snow White of a tired cliché and the movie perfunctorily hits the beats of its predecessor (all with a countryfied twist).
The acting is what one would expect from a film of this caliber; that is, no one’s going home with a statuette unless it has a MTV or Blockbuster logo on it. Wormald actually does okay, his Boston accent is natural but still seemed thicker in some scenes than others. Most of his dancing was more like a bad cross between krumping and gymnastics but I’ll throw some of that blame on the choreographers. Hough has ridiculously piercing blue eyes and sure knows how to dance, but most of her confrontational scenes were more like cinematic pouts than something that felt sincere and/or didn’t elicit unintentional guffaws.
Then there’s Dennis Quaid. He’s a good actor, and easy for audiences to sympathize with – what with his amazingly frequent teary-eyed looks and speeches. However, there was something missing in the performance that just seemed to come effortlessly from Lithgow in the original. Casting Andie MacDowell as his wife isn’t doing anyone any favors but the bottom line is that while Quaid has always done a nice job of playing the protective father, adding the religious component just felt a little hollow and it was difficult to buy him as the spiritual leader of the town.
Anyone filling in for Sarah Jessica Parker (for any reason) is an improvement, so Ziah Colon’s take on the character of Rusty felt fine. Perhaps most surprising though is Miles Teller’s performance as Willard – a role so iconically done by the late Chris Penn. There are some key differences in how the role plays out (as part of the appeal to Penn’s take was that he didn’t look like someone who could dance), but Teller helps to alleviate the general blandness of his co-stars and steals nearly every scene he’s in.
Now, as for the music, the big hits are repackaged in the new soundtrack. “Footloose”, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, “Almost Paradise” and “Holding Out For A Hero” all get updated with a country twang and feature prominently in the film. They even use the original Kenny Loggins version of the titular song, which helped prevent a full aneurysm. However, the revamped renditions almost unilaterally induced internal and occasional external groans from this over 30 year-old critic. But then again, this whole concept of altering an essentially sacred film (not that it doesn’t have its own faults) and bringing it to a new generation rather than simply re-releasing the original only raises my blood pressure.
So, sure, Footloose (2011) does what’s expected/required and will do fine with anyone born after 1990 but since that’s still no excuse to remake it in the first place and it takes 113 minutes to get to the end, there’s no way in the fiery pits of Hades that I’ll give it quite the passing grade. All you young whippersnappers will probably eat this up like a packet of Go-Gurt while you listen to your pirated mp3 of Panic at the Disco but for anyone who holds the original near and dear, trust your instincts and just re-watch Kevin Bacon do his thing. Your soul will thank you.
Footloose hits theaters on October 14, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language.
More on Footloose:
–News, trailer and cast info