Footloose: In with the old, in with the new


Remakes of eighties classics have seen a meteoric rise in recent years. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Clash of the Titans — all revamped with twice as much sex, blood and CGI for a fresh generation of cinema-goers. But Craig Brewer’s reimagining of Footloose, based on the iconic teen drama of 1984, is difficult to classify. With dialogue and scenes ripped almost directly from its eighties counterpart, it’s hard to imagine why Paramount thought this remake was a good idea. Was it a worthy attempt to connect with a new audience, or just another opportunity for Hollywood to cash-in on the good old days?

The premise of Footloose was never exactly realistic: the small Christian town of Bomont, encouraged by local preacher Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), imposes a ban on dancing and rock music. Dance-mad newcomer Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) decides to overturn the ban, falling in love with the preacher’s headstrong daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) along the way. It was a stretch even in 1984 to suggest that such a thing could occur in the land of the free. However, Brewer — surprisingly — has managed to make Bomont more authentic in a modern context. The sunbaked Americana setting has been relocated from Utah to the more conservative Georgia, and greater emphasis is placed on the tragic car accident which changed the face of Bomont. “I can promise Footloose fans that I will be true to the spirit of the original film,” said Brewer, “but I still gotta put my own Southern grit into it and kick it into 2011”. Brewer’s fondness for ‘Southern grit’ has previously been demonstrated in Black Snake Moan (2006), in which he captured the “sweaty underbelly” of Mississippi blues.

The new setting works. But “kicking it into 2011” has its drawbacks. The remake ratchets up the sex appeal to a Bay-worthy level of gratuitous. We see a lot more flesh and a lot more gyration than we did in 1984. Ariel’s rebellious streak shines through most strongly when she scornfully tells her father that she’s “not even a virgin”. Hough, best known from Dancing with the Stars, would have brought more to the role if it had placed greater emphasis on her dancing than her acting.  In contrast, Wormald’s character is a doe-eyed misfit with a heart of gold, who makes a moving speech to regain his right to dance — a step up from Kevin Bacon’s more self-assured Ren.

Footloose is no longer just a film about rebellion, but it does somewhat struggle to evade memories of the original. It is a film about community activism, mutual respect and learning to let go. But clichés aside, it’s probably still worth kicking off your Sunday shoes for a fix of good old-fashioned dancing.


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