Julianne Hough in Footloose.
It's hard to believe about someone of my generation, but I've never seen the original 1984 Footloose. It always seemed like such a ridiculous plot and I was never that big of a Kevin Bacon fan and so I never saw it in the theater and found it quite easy to avoid in the intervening years. I'm familiar with the soundtrack of course. That was impossible to avoid and it contained some catchy 1980s pop songs. So I was neither excited nor offended that they were remaking this film although I still thought it was a dumb idea for a plot.
The movie opens with a group of teenagers getting into a car after a party where there was drinking and dancing. On the ride home the teenagers are killed in a car accident, prompting the town council to pass a series of laws designed to keep the teens of the town safe. They impose a curfew and among other things, a law that prohibits public dancing by minors. As crazy and as dumb an idea as that sounds, it's actually loosely based on a true story and I do mean loosely. Elmore Oklahoma had a 100 year old ban on dancing that was ended in 1980 at a high school prom.
Three years later, Ren MacCormack, a high school senior comes to the town following the death of his mom. He's from Boston and a dancer and he finds the laws constricting. There's some drama when he has a few minor run-ins with the law and falls in love with the preacher's daughter. He also makes some friends with some locals. The climax of the film is when Ren makes an impassioned plea to have the law revoked.
The cast of high-schoolers are mostly unknowns. On the plus side, Kenny Wormald is a dancer, unlike Bacon and so you actually get to see him dance. On the negative side, he and the rest of the cast are all way too old for their parts. Wormald is in his late twenties and looks it and the rest of the cast, while younger, are still in their twenties. In one scene, with no explanation to how they do it, a group of them go to a dance bar out of town where presumably they were able to drink because of how clearly old they look.
While hiring twenty-somethings to play high-schoolers is standard practice in Hollywood, it works against the movie here. This is a silly plot device and Ren's argument is based on the idea that kids need to be able to act like kids when they're kids. Now that's an argument that would have been a lot more effective if it had been delivered by a kid and not a man old enough to have kids of his own.
The movie trots out several songs from the original soundtrack including the theme tune, Let's Hear it for the Boy, Almost Paradise and Holding Out for a Hero. What it fails to do is include any new classics. It relies on recognition of the old ones, done mostly in remakes, instead of trying to inject any new music.
My big problem with this movie is that I never really cared about anyone in it. Miles Teller is funny as Willard, but the leads, Wormald and Julianne Hough, a young Jennifer Aniston look-alike, are pretty but vacuous. I was never drawn into their struggle to get the dance ban lifted. And without any emotional connection to the story, this is a long movie to get through at nearly two hours.
I'm sure there are plenty of people who will say that the original version was so much better than this one and they may be right, but I'm certainly in no hurry to prove it.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2011)