It is exceedingly rare for a remake of a classic film to hit every note as the original and then surpass it. Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) deserves a golf clap for his update of Footloose. The original film turned Kevin Bacon into a star and defined the spirit of the early eighties. Brewer's adaptation cleverly gives several nods and winks to the first film, but also has a modern sensibility that every teenager today will understand. Footloose won't be up for any Oscars, but I was pleasantly surprised by how I felt walking out of the theater. I literally felt like dancing. I remembered my high school days and how much fun we had - forgive the pun - living footloose and fancy free. In a world where optimism is a fleeting commodity, it's great to see a film that leaves you upbeat.
Kenny Wormald stars as Boston city kid, Ren MacCormack. He moves to Bomont, Georgia to live with his uncle after the tragic death of his mother. Ren's acclimation to life in the South is bumpy at best. He's even more amazed to find out that the town has a curfew and ban of all public dancing by teenagers. The city council, under the guidance of the local pastor, Reverend Shaw (Dennis Quaid), has taken a hard line against youth frivolity. This affects his daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough), the most. Ariel lives the bad girl image to overcome deeper feelings. Only when she meets Ren does she find a kindred spirit. Their relationship, and the effect it has on the town's youth, brings an inevitable confrontation with the Reverend.
Footloose is geared toward teenagers, particularly the issues of rebellion in adolescence. Ariel acts up, but is not really a rebel. She recognizes what a true rebel is after meeting Ren. Being young and confused can lead to bad behavior. Ren is a good kid. What he wants is the freedom to express himself without hurting or demeaning others. I thought the chemistry and relationship between the primary actors was perfect. They light up the screen. Young romance can be so cheesy and poorly depicted in cinema. Not here, this relationship is well crafted and beautiful to see.
There's of course a whole lot of dancing and music in Footloose. The filmmakers, in a stroke of genius, include all the music from the original; without making it dated. Some songs are giving modern interpretations, but classic's like 'Let's Here it For the Boys' are unfurled in all their old-school glory. The scenes where the characters hear this music and react to it are fun to watch. This is a hallmark of the original that had to be duplicated successfuly or the remake would have been terrible. Brewer knew what the spirit of Footloose was and has re-bottled it for a twenty-first century audience.
Striking a balance between silly and serious is difficult in any film. Footloose does it better than most films of the genre. There are some genuine dramatic moments. It adds a weight to the film, a reality about the nature of the true world. This is the primary difference between the original and the remake. 1984 was a different time to be young. Think of the John Hughes and Steve Holland films depicted youth. Times are much more serious now. Brewer's Footloose doesn't lose sight of this.
I've seen a few teenage dance genre films over the past few years that were torture to sit through. Footloose is far superior to any of the recent releases. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to have a little fun at the movies this weekend. Now where did I kick those Sunday shoes?