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Many regard the 1980s as the best-ever decade in the history of popular music, and with legendary albums from Michael Jackson, Madonna and Janet Jackson among others, it’s hard to disagree. Alongside those seminal artists, the soundtrack to the 1984 film Footloose made a huge impression that same decade.
Footloose featured two number one singles – both of which were nominated for Oscars – cementing the film as an iconic piece of nostalgia that would be viewed and enjoyed by many for years to come. It’s almost 30 years later, and Hollywood has seized the opportunity to remake the well-known property. Contrary to what you might think, this revamp isn’t a simple cash-in. It’s a well-made, genuinely exciting tribute to the seminal 1984 feature that conjures up some excitement of its own.
You know the story: the brash Ren McCormack (now embodied by professional-dancer-turned-actor Kenny Wormald) travels from the big city to the little town of Bomont, where things like public dancing and loud music have been outlawed thanks to a tragedy that took place three years prior.
Keeping things in strict order is Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), who serves as reverend at one of the churches in town. However, his daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) lives life on the wild side by taking part in activities that her dad would certainly hate. These include, but are not limited to, heavy amounts of gyrating, a penchant for boisterous tunes and getting physically involved with guys who wouldn’t impress her father very much.
Ren is intrigued by Ariel’s wild side and completely mystified about the town’s attitude towards dancing. He decides to take action and make it known that it’s his time to shine, to rejoice — to cut loose.
Neither Footloose film really aims for a highly artistic statement or bold filmmaking, but both achieve a certain level of easily digestible entertainment that comes complete with a capable cast and highly kinetic soundtrack of tunes ready for the dance floor.
The film appropriately opens with the original title tune performed by Kenny Loggins as high school kids party the night away. Sadly, five of them die in a car accident later that night. After that, we see the verdict that keeps Bomont in an extremely stringent state.
Just moments later, Ren enters the picture to Zac Brown’s ballad “Where the River Goes,” a tune that appropriately sets up the narrative as our protagonist enters the tight-knit Bomont. That song is just one of a few new tracks that make their way into the film; another is the Gretchen Wilson/Big and Rich collaboration “Fake I.D.” that plays as Ren and some friends dance at a bar outside of town.
On that note, Wormald is surprisingly engaging as Ren. Not only does he bring to life the sarcastic and defiant characteristics of the out-of-towner, but he also capably navigates through his dramatic moments and chemistry with co-star Julianne Hough. Oh, and he also does his own dancing, which is a major plus in the reenactment of the big solo dance number – something that works much better this time around thanks to Wormald’s kinetic expertise.
As for the aforementioned Hough, she’s unfortunately the weakest link of anyone in the film. Her performance is just fine, but that’s the problem. It’s done well enough, but she doesn’t take the role anywhere outside of the script’s limitations. She shows some genuine promise in a giant clash with Quaid towards the end of the film, but aside from that, the line readings are barely satisfactory. However, she carries herself brilliantly in the dancing sequences, as she – like Wormald – is a professional dancer.
The supporting cast does some exciting work as well. Quaid brings a sense of realism to his role as the dance-hating reverend, and Miles Teller induces quite a few belly aches as the bumbling sidekick Willard.
Footloose makes up for some of the shortcomings of the ‘80s film by giving more of a context to the narrative. Not only are we introduced to the incident that sets up the entire plot of the film, but there’s also quite a bit going on in the lives of the characters and a natural flow to the action that takes place throughout.
It might not be a particularly ambitious film, but this remake of Footloose gets the job done with some terrific dance numbers, a more completely fleshed-out take on the original story, and a leading performance that’ll hopefully lead to a legitimate film acting career.
Directed by Craig Brewer
Written by Craig Brewer and Dean Pitchford
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid