Dialogue Review – Footloose (2011)
Brandi Sperry: There are some remake projects that just won’t die, no matter what the obstacles, and the new version of Footloose was one of them. We’ve been hearing about this since Zac Efron was supposed to star in it back in 2007 (and hey, he did seem a logical choice, if someone was insisting on making this movie). Now, four years and a few potential stars and directors later, Footloose has arrived. Craig Brewer, best known for writing and directing Hustle & Flow (2005), took the reigns, and dancer Kenny Wormald takes on the role of Ren McCormack, the one that solidified Kevin Bacon as a star 27 years ago.
Allen Almachar: Ren is a tough kid from B’ahston (Boston) who moves in to small town, U.S.A. after the death of his mother. Upon immediately arriving in to the area, Ren realizes that things work much differently than where he’s from. After a tragic accident that befell the town years before, a city ordinance is enforced prohibiting minors from partying, playing loud music, and dancing. Yes, that’s right: dancing is forbidden.
Brandi: Well, you can dance sometimes, but the kids don’t much like the six-inches-of-space type of restrictions put on it, and the schools don’t want to take on the risk of hosting events anymore, is what we’re told. Perhaps the idea of a town going to such extreme lengths was a stretch in 1984, and I’m not sure whether it’s more or less of a stretch now—either way, I thought the film did a good job of creating its own little world where this was going on. But perhaps you disagree?
Allen: I would disagree, unfortunately. I feel that restricting or prohibiting people from dancing is a little too silly to take from any kind of movie that supposed to vaguely resemble the real world. If this was more along the lines of a farce, then maybe I would be more willing to accept it. And even then, it’s not like these people are bumping and grinding, a la Dirty Dancing.The dancing here is as cookie cutter as you can get.
While I can understand the motivations that drive the characters that support this law, in particular the Reverend Shaw Moor (Dennis Quaid), it’s still pretty hard to accept. Dancing is pretty much universally accepted as a positive exercise, so to buy in to the premise of the movie takes a bit more than just a simple suspension of disbelief.
Brandi: Let me say that I went into this movie with very low expectations—truly, I didn’t even want to be there—and somehow, it got me. I get what you are saying about the premise being like a farce when the tone doesn’t play it that way, and yet the very sincerity is the thing that swept me in and convinced me to just go with it. They follow the original film beat for beat and recreate entire scenes and choreographed bits—with the same music!—with such glee that it was pretty much impossible for me to not take some delight in that. It just worked for me, and quite unexpectedly. But hey, I liked High School Musical, too.
Allen: I decided to refrain from the seeing the original, so as to have differing perspectives going into this film. However, I have seen quite a number of the well-known scenes from that movie, and you’re right, the remake is pretty much a carbon copy from the original—from costumes to story beats. If this mirrors the first movie in all of the major elements, that raises the question: why even remake the movie? There’s really not much here that isn’t already contained in the first, except that the stereos have been replaced with iPods.
The one thing that did stand out for me was Willard (Miles Teller), Ren’s buddy. Will plays the comedy relief role here, and he does have a number of good laughs with his well-intentioned dorkiness. It’s unfortunate that he is probably the only thing worth watching. Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough (who plays Ren’s love interest, Ariel) are both dancers in real life, and the lack of acting experience shows in their non-dancing performances. The kind of “All-American Wholesomeness” that sets the tone of the film felt overbearing and forced, especially in the critical scene where Ren makes his case for the town to drop their law and allow the kids to have their high school prom.
Brandi: I definitely agree with you that Miles Teller was a highlight. His delivery was extremely funny and livened up even some of the clunkier dialogue. He could really be someone to watch if given some more solid comedic roles in the future. Still, I liked all of the actors, Wormald and Hough included. I’m not handing out any Oscars, but I thought they were charming and had decent chemistry. Perhaps I was slightly persuaded in that direction by a certain attractiveness on Wormald’s part (it’s not creepy—he’s 27 in real life), but you know, sometimes I guess I just don’t mind a little wholesomeness.
As to the “why bother” question: to make money? Is this no longer one of the legitimate reasons to make a movie? I think it is. Now, I’ll still absolutely criticize any film that has no worth beyond that, and of course I wish there were more original ideas being banked by studios. And there are certain properties I hope are never “reimagined,” just because of personal attachment (lookin’ at you and your Thin Man fetish, Johnny Depp). But I recognize the silliness in that; a remake changes nothing about the original. And as much as we all love ’80s nostalgia, the original Footloose is far from an untouchable work of art. If our collective fondness for it can be spun to make something that’s only a little bit new but is a lot of fun, I’m okay with that. My initial dread didn’t come from thinking a remake was blasphemous; it came from assuming it would be a shoddily constructed piece of crap reeking of cynicism and desperation. This film, emphatically, is not any of that.