Kenny Wormald as Ren McCormack
Julianne Hough as Ariel Moore
Dennis Quaid as Rev. Shaw Moore
Ziah Colon as Rusty Rodriguez
Ray McKinnon as Wes Warnicker
Miles Teller as Willard
Ser’Darius Blain as Woody
Patrick John Flueger as Chuck Cranston
Andie MacDowell as Vi Moore
Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Amy Warnicker
Jayson Warner Smith as Officer Herb
Mary-Charles Jones as Sarah Warnicker
Josh Warren as Rich Christopher
Corey Flaspoehler as Russell Holmes
Brett Rice as Roger Dunbar
Patricia French as Eleanor Dunbar
Anessa Ramsey as Caroline
Claude Phillips as Claude
Clayton Landey as Coach Guerntz
L. Warren Young as Andy Beamis
Frank Hoyt Taylor as Mr. Parker
Jason Ferguson as Travis Wayne
Directed by Craig Brewer
The small Southern town of Bomont has been rocked by the tragic death of five local teenagers, forcing the town council led by the Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) to abolish all public dancing from the town and set a curfew for its kids. Years later, Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald), a troubled young guy from Boston, shows up in town ready to fight against the council’s rules as he starts hanging with the reverend’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough), who has been getting into trouble of her own with a local race car driver (Patrick John Flueger).
Having little to no personal investment in whether remaking the 1984 movie that transformed Kevin Bacon into a bonafide movie star is a good idea or not, it certainly doesn’t feel like this remake by Craig (“Hustle & Flow”) Brewer goes too far out of its way to reinvent the wheel as much as creating a similar experience for younger moviegoers as the original created 27 years ago, and that’s by no means a bad thing.
The idea of a town where public dancing has been banned still feels a bit silly, but don’t let that put you off, because it will be justified by some of the more dramatic sections later in the movie. Before we get there, we meet Kenny Wormald’s Ren McCormack as he arrives in town after the death of his mother and he’s placed in the care of his uncle (Ray McKinnon). Ren doesn’t have too much trouble making friends, starting with the simple-minded Willard, played by Miles Teller from “Rabbit Hole.” At the same time, the reverend’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) has been hanging with an older race car driver, though her father is more concerned with her spending time with the new boy.
If you’re a fan of the original movie, it’s doubtful you’ll feel your beloved movie has been ruined by this remake, since Brewer remains so reverential, but it’s quickly evident there may not have been a better filmmaker than Brewer to direct this. Besides being intimately familiar with Southern culture and bringing an authenticity to the setting far beyond anything in the original movie, Brewer also really knows his music. At times, it’s hard not to feel the movie doesn’t just exist to sell soundtracks, but it’s a damn fine soundtrack, a seamless blend of metal, country, Memphis blues and hip-hop. It also includes many of the classic tunes from the original movie, and not just the title song by Kenny Loggins, all of which holds up surprisingly well.
One of the reasons “Footloose” quickly grows on you as it goes along is because those original songs keep it grounded, and the fantastic dance sequences feature choreography as strong as any other recent movie musical. Like the soundtrack, it mixes familiar moves from the original movie with updated country and hip-hop choreography.
When you realize how many actors besides Bacon got their start in the original movie–the role of Ariel’s friend Rusty was originally played by Sarah Jessica Parker!–it’s pretty obvious how difficult it must have been for Brewer to cast this one. Fortunately, that’s another place where the new “Footloose” really delivers. Kenny Wormald’s Ren has just the right perfectly coiffed hair and longing looks that makes him the perfect leading man, but Julianna Hough is even more fantastic as Ariel; sexy and bubbly and adorable, but she can also handle the heavy dramatic scenes, and she tackles those in an incredibly effective way that pulls it out of the feeling of being an MTV show, which is the case during the first 45 minutes or so.
Miles Teller offers the perfect comic relief in the movie and he’s fantastic, particularly in a montage in which Ren tries to teach Willard how to dance, which is the true turning point for the movie winning you over. Dennis Quaid is a bit stiff at first–he’s filling the big shoes of John Lithgow who was so great in the original–but by the last act, we’re getting some of Quaid’s strongest dramatic acting as well.
If you never saw the original movie, you probably won’t realize how many of the beats are taken directly from it, though it still may be somewhat obvious where things are going.
The weakest part of the movie is the conflict between Ren and Ariel’s racer boyfriend, which peaks in a race with tricked-out buses that seems forced and shoe-horned into the story, as if the dancing action wasn’t enough. The second and third acts play out so much better than the set-up that even the minor stumble, when Chuck returns to get revenge on Ren, is quickly recovered from with an impressive final dance sequence. What it comes down to is that every decision made early on ultimately pays off to create a satisfying experience overall.
The Bottom Line:
It’s not often a remake can invoke some of the same feelings that made the original so memorable. Grumpy old men (like me) will try their best to fight against liking this remake tooth and nail, but there’s no question that it works as a whole and will win you over with its refreshingly fun take on a beloved ’80s classic as it showcases some fine new talent.