Footloose (2011 remake)

tn_footlooseEnough about premaquels. How about a good old fashioned straight up remake? Kinda refreshing!

I guess I never saw the original FOOTLOOSE before, ’cause I always thought it was about a town where you’re not allowed to dance because they’re real religious. In this remake by Craig Brewer (yes, HUSTLE AND FLOW, BLACK SNAKE MOAN Craig Brewer) the ban happens in response to a great tragedy, when five promising high school teenagers are killed in a head-on collision after a dance. In other words, this movie is about the Patriot Act.

Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) is the James Deanian hero who comes back to little Bomont, Georgia to live with his uncle (Ray McKinnon) after the death of his mother. He’s from Boston, has an intermittent accent and half-joking disdain for redneck lifestyles. He knows how to fix a car engine, likes to slick his hair back real cool, and is an experienced dancer and gymnast (whuh!?). He quickly spots the Megan Foxian, Daisy-Duke wearing town sexpot Ariel (Julianne Hough), who we know has only been this way since her brother died 3 years ago in that accident. Her daddy (Dennis Quaid) is the pastor of the Presbyterian church and the architect of the dance ban. She does a credible job of acting out to get her father’s attention without entirely losing sympathy.

The fact that they let Willard on the right there wear those shorts proves that they were going for realism over hipness
The fact that they let Willard on the right there wear those shorts proves that they were going for realism over hipness

Wormald doesn’t light the screen on fire or anything, but I don’t know. He didn’t let it get cold. I liked him. He’s a cool teen hero character because he gets to have it both ways: he’s the rebel and the good kid. He gets profiled as a “city boy,” he has to appear in court for playing Quiet Riot too loud in his car, and everyone decides he’s a druggie because he won’t narc out the guy that tried to hand him a joint in the library. But actually he’s totally clean – he brags about years of piss testing on the gymnastics squad – and gains respect by repeatedly turning down Ariel’s advances. He knows she’s all over him to piss off her boyfriend or her dad. He waits until she can be all over him for him.

One of the first signs that the movie is gonna actually be good is Quaid’s emotional speech about the tragic accident and the need to protect the children. He doesn’t play this as a bad guy, or even just kind of a jerk. He’s genuinely trying to do the right thing. He’s not even really a strict father. There are multiple incidents of trying to be a modern, understanding dad. When his daughter lies in order to get to spend the night at her friend’s house he seems torn, like “I don’t know, should we let her?” And he decides yes. He’s not the Taliban.

I think what feels so fresh about this (even though it’s a remake) is that it steers clear of the easiest stereotypes known to Hollywood. There’s plenty of opportunity for hateful Bible-thumping villainy, but it never happens. Brewer treats the church entirely as well-meaning, nice people. Only at the end, when Quaid testifies that he thinks modern music is ungodly, does it seem a little forced. But even then he comes across as a prudish guy advocating for his opinion, not a zealot trying to judge everybody else for not agreeing.

Same goes for other authority figures who are usually one-dimensional in this type of movie, including the chief of police and the principal. They don’t trust Ren but they do seem sympathetic toward him and sincere about trying to do the right thing.

Brewer also doesn’t use any of the go-to cliches about the South, like making the bad guys racist. In fact the school seems to be primarily black, and all the kids like going to a black-run drive-in theater where they’re secretly allowed to “get crunk” listening to bootleg rap CDs.

It’s also a movie full of likable, unpolished supporting characters. An actor I never heard of before, Miles Teller, steals the movie as Ren’s buddy Willard. They become friends after they bump into each other in the hall, get in an argument about it and then can’t help but laugh at each other’s clever insults. Also I liked Ren’s uncle and his goofy little cousins. It’s full of small characters that are colorful but feel real.

I guess Brewer thought the soundtrack was really important to the original movie so he used new versions of the same songs. Mostly countrified. They didn’t, like, add Li’l Wayne to all of them. They seemed okay to me, but I’m not in any way precious about the old versions. I was disappointed that they did not get into the concept of Sunday shoes, and how they wear different shoes on Sundays, and then when they start dancing they change from the Sunday shoes to the Monday through Friday shoes in defiance of God. It seemed like they just wore boots or Chuck Taylors. Also it never explained who Louise, Jack and Milo are.

It’s funny ’cause it feels more nuanced and true to life than you expect for a movie like this, but then when they start dancing it turns ridiculous. How did this many kids learn to dance this good and this synchronized? It’s not quite the cartoon dimension where the STEP UP saga takes place, but it’s pretty far-fetched. Every dance situation is a full-fledged dance number, whether at the drive-in, a country line-dancing place or just a kegger. My favorite is when he can’t take the pressure of this town anymore so he tears his VW Bug into an abandoned warehouse, gets out and performs a dance, gymnastics and chain-swinging tirade to let it all out. That’s probly what I would do too.

Also there’s a part where they have a demolition derby in school buses that end up in flames. Everybody’s okay, but jesus. You think you got the teens on lockdown, Pastor? You should keep an eye on the race track.

I’m not saying this is as good as HUSTLE & FLOW, but it’s an infectiously likable movie that I don’t think another director could’ve done nearly as well. Brewer loves people, the South, atmosphere, rhythm, dirt and sweat. See, it really made sense when they replaced THIS IS IT/HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL’s Kenny Ortega to get someone “grittier.” He knew what he was doing.

And it takes the nice message of the original and shows us that it’s relevant today. You might think it’s silly that I mentioned the Patriot Act in my opening paragraph, and obviously this is not some preachy movie about the erosion of our civil liberties. But I’m not kidding, that really is at the core of what the movie is about. They even have a joke about “the terrorists won” if they can’t do what they want, and it’s a funny comment for a character to make but also a hint at the subtext of the movie. It’s the idea that yes, bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean you gotta throw away the things that make life great in order to prevent them from happening again. That means our constitutional rights, it also means dancing and doing flips and listening to Quiet Riot in the car and enjoying girl’s butts. I implore all Americans and free citizens of the world to do what these kids do in the movie: study your local laws, and change them if need be, to preserve everybody’s fundamental right to cut loose (specifically footloose).

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 10th, 2012 at 11:52 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Footloose (2011 remake)”

  1. wow Vern, welcome back buddy, I was getting worried, care to explain why the site was down for a few days?

    and I surprisingly want to see this movie just to see a modern Hollywood movie depict Georgia in a positive light without making any Deliverance jokes, I like that

    I wonder, is this Craig Brewer guy from Georgia?

  2. According to his imdb bio he was born in Virginia, spent his early childhood in Memphis, Tennessee, attended elementary school and junior high in Vallejo, California, before moving to Orange Country, and then moved back to Vallejo in the early 90’s.

    Most of his films are set in Memphis.

  3. Fun Fact: the original director of the original FOOTLOOSE was Michael Cimino, who was fired before shooting because his version would’ve been more ambitious than planned (i.e. more expensive) and well, apparently he didn’t give a fuck about towing the line after HEAVEN’S GATE.

    What I want to know is, where in an exec’s thought process do they think “yeah we’re making a teensploitation picture, let’s get an Oscar winning director!”

  4. I remember watching the original multiple times in high school, mostly because I thought it was the most unintentionally funny movie I had ever seen. The part where the two rivals play chicken on the slowest moving tractors ever to the song “I Need a Hero” is brilliant. I will say that some of that ambiguity that Vern found in this movie can be found in the original as well, even if it is not as well done. The original Footloose is goofy and dated, but in the center is a surprisingly great performance by John Lithgow as the overprotective parent and pastor.

  5. I think we have a new national mantra thanks to Vern “If we can’t enjoy girls’ butts, the terrorists won”. I could get behind that.

  6. Vern,

    If you liked watching a goober like Kenny Wormald doing the angry dance in a warehouse you MUST check out the original. Same scene, 100% more Kevin Bacon.

    At the very least youtube it.

  7. I thought Hustle and Flow was set in Atlanta?

  8. Filming location for Hustle and Flow is Memphis, and I remember a lot of talk about Memphis when the film was released, because of there special music scene.

  9. I went to this movie today and while it was fun, there were a whole lotta draggy bits – the acting parts were not as good as the dancery bits. I think there was more dancing than the original though. They should have cast Kevin Bacon as the preacher, but Dennis Quaid did a good job. I thought it entirely appropriate that Jerry Lee Lewis would reject rock and roll and go back to his old timey religious roots.

    Even though I can’t remember watching Footloose since I don’t know when, I got total recall that oh yeah, it was Chris Penn did this flick, because that Willard guy aped his performance perfectly. IMO, he was definitely the best part of the movie.

    I heard Penn hated this movie though, his flick, not the remake.

  10. since this movie is not getting a whole lot of discussion and the current Potpourri is broken, I’m going to go off topic and ask…

    are you guys ready for the shitloads of money The Hunger Games is about to make?

    my mom has read the first two books and says they’re good, which she has pretty good taste in books (for example, she doesn’t read anything like Twilight or James Patterson) so I’m going to see the movie with her, I hope it doesn’t suck

    it’d be nice if one of these YA novels spawns a decent film series and steals Twlight’s thunder

  11. Never thought I’d be interested in seeing this, but the Patriot Act subtext actually makes me think I might for a half second. Also, what can I say, sometimes I like movies with dancing in them.

    I too was wondering about the offline-ness, Vern! Glad to see the site’s back up and running.

  12. The angry dance in the warehouse was really brilliant, because it actually romanticized the iPod. Sort of like when Tarantino romanticized the compact disc in Death Proof. That shit where he’s using the audio cable as a whip, and even noting that he’s got an SSD that can withstand him chucking the device. Lots of movies are about modern stuff but secretly are grumpy old men who don’t get it, like how The Social Network is so grudging about the notion of Facebook being a force of nature. For a movie that is about rebelling against this idea that the internet and hip hop and ATM machines are soulless, it was really necessary to have this moment. It convinced me of the sincerity of the film.

    Not nearly as good as Hustle, but a vast improvement on Black Snake Moan in my eyes. What the fuck was with that one anyway?

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