Footloose is a silly, stereotypical, and safe love story that is elevated by director Craig Brewer who makes it fun with a heart that will undoubtedly entertain all that are interested.
Full disclosure, I have never seen the original Footloose. My closest connection to it is the “angry dancing” sequence when parodied in Flight of the Conchords and the classic song being played at every wedding I have ever been to. That said, it is a great song and a brilliant scene for Bret McKenzie but it is more important to note that I am coming in with no, “they are remaking that,” prejudice; not that I ever do anyways.
The story is about a small town that has outlawed dancing and enforces strict curfews and laws for its local youth after a tragic car accident and what happens when a young Bostonian, Ren, shows up and tries to shake things up. Ren has moved to live with his uncle after his mother’s long lost battle to cancer. He meets the town preacher’s daughter, Ariel (and brother to one of the infamous accident’s victims), and things begin to get interesting for everyone in town. As Ren learns the ropes of the town, he begins to push back and the more he gets to know Ariel the closer he hopes to grow with her.
Now I thought this movie was going to be about dancing, which would be fine as good dancing is quite entertaining to watch, but it really isn’t about dancing. In fact, the lack of dancing in the film is almost shocking. That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair amount of it, there are more than a handful of dance numbers, I just think I was expecting people to be dancing through the streets. Why was that? I don’t know, but I think more dancing would have helped elevate the movie above its classic boy meets girl tale.
This boy meets girl tale, while completely uninspired, does work for the most part and I was able to connect with the couple in the end. It is by no means a great connection, but I’m happy they’re happy; and, of course, that they get to dance. The film’s heart comes through in the friendship/bonding of the students as they slowly try to get their right to be a kid back. It might take a bit too long to get there but the film is sprinkled with really nice character moments, usually between one another, and this helps us invest enough in this silly story.
The cast doesn’t knock your socks off here, but they are all more than adequate in each of their parts. Miles Teller is the closest thing to a standout here, providing a number of solid laughs, but beyond him no one is all that memorable. Julianne Hough and Kenny Wormald are our lead couple and they can both dance and are just good enough on the acting side of things. The veteran actors are rather middling as well, Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell have done far better work, but the average script is more the problem here; well, Quaid is a little rough around the edges here. Actually, Ray McKinnon is my favorite actor here, showing nice range hitting both pathos and humor with ease, and I wish we had more from Uncle Wes in the picture.
Craig Brewer’s direction is what really elevates the film as he and his creative team just keep things light and fun. The film looks great, wastes only a couple scenes (I’m looking at you bus race, even if you gave us a shirtless Julianne Hough), and brings an energy to all of the dance scenes that are infectious. The script is the weak link here, but Brewer is able to more than make up for most of its shortcomings. The opening credits sequence by itself is impressive, but it just gets you in the mood and is the most fun credit sequence since Scott Pilgrim. Brewer was somehow even able to make the angry dancing scene work, though I did have to laugh, and paired it with the unlikely music of The White Stripes. The soundtrack is solid through and through for those interested and I think the modernization of some of the more classic tracks work as well. Brewer’s use of montages is about as solid as you can hope for and he uses them to inject some solid humor as well. Brewer takes what should be a ridiculously silly and ludicrous movie and makes us care while, most importantly, entertaining us from nearly start to finish.
In the end, Footloose is a lot of fun and overcomes a lot of its potential shortcomings. While entertained from start to finish there isn’t anything we haven’t seen before; and not just because it is a remake. The film will probably be quite enjoyable to the young generation of today and I think that fans of the original might find some things they like as well. Brewer gives it is all behind the camera and makes the most of what this premise has to offer, I just wish it could have elevated beyond being adequate; even if it is fun.
Footloose is a C+