As a woman, I’m inclined to bestow immediate praise on the new version of Footloose. I mean, the only way this movie could appeal to my nostalgic ladyparts even more would be to randomly include neon Lisa Frank art and unicorns.
And then that realization kind of scared me, so I had a frank talk with my vagina. “Vagina,” I said, “the old Footloose is gone. Despite having a cute, snotty troublemaker and a lot of spaztastic dancing, this movie still is a bastardized version of what you remember – and what you secretly still watch on a monthly basis.”
“But Allison,” my vagina said, “sometimes cheap shots of nostalgia and unnecessary musical numbers are all that I need. Stop overthinking.”
I hate to say it, but my vagina made sense. Even though the new Footloose feels like wispy cotton candy compared to the original’s all-day sucker, it still is tasty.
The tent poles that held up the 1984 version are in place for the 2011 flick: An opinionated teenage boy leaves the big city to live with relatives in a small town that time forgot. He falls in love with the town bicycle, urges her preacher daddy to change the ridiculous law against basic revelry, and throws together the biggest (and only) senior prom his high school class has ever seen.
The story still works, though details have changed. Ren (Kenny Wormald, Center Stage: Turn It Up) now hails from Boston instead of Chicago and uses his “Yankee sarcasm” to push the plot along; I almost didn’t miss Kevin Bacon in the role. Almost. Ren’s uncle Wes replaces his now-departed mom as his moral compass, and Ray McKinnon (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Deadwood”) completely turns the character around, giving Wes some much-needed humor and patience. Ariel (Julianne Hough, “Dancing with the Stars”) is decidedly more slutty and otherwise lifeless, while her father Shaw (Dennis Quaid, The Rookie, Great Balls of Fire) lacks the firey conviction that John Lithgow had in the 1984 version. And Ren’s best friend Willard isn’t quite as clownish as the original film offered; Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) shows that Willard is a bit cunning and can learn dance steps fairly easily.
Those dance steps are what make Footloose such a guilty treat. The entire cast is so good that you think you’re watching a production by the New York City Ballet instead of a rebellion movie. At times, the professionalism is a little too slick, but the prevalence of cowboy hats and teenage hormones balances everything out.
Fans will revel in the many homages that the new flick makes to the 1984 Footloose. We’re thrust into the beginning of the movie with an expansion on the “dancing feet” opening credits sequence that features Kenny Loggins’ title track. Ren and jerkface Chuck (Patrick John Flueger, “The 4400”) cause a ruckus while playing “chicken” (Ignore that the event occurs at a stupid speedway). And Willard learns to shake a tail feather, thanks to Ren’s guidance and some saucy little girls.
But the nods to the original movie sometimes feel like cop-outs. While I usually hate when new projects deviate much from source material, the new Footloose is dangerously close to being a carbon copy. Sure, some scenes and background info are a bit more fleshed out, but on the whole, the 2011 version feels like a fan simply reshot the entire movie. Many times, the framing, the scenes and the words are lifted directly from the original film. And the soundtrack? I’m all for nostalgic songs, but having most of the original tracks in this flick is a bit lazy. Don’t even get me started on how they’re now country-fied, either.
Still, my vagina swooned at the spectacle of the new Footloose, and that nostalgic bit inside me can’t help but agree with her. Footloose is a dance-happy, sing-songy flick, and it’s no mystery who its target audience is. But despite the film’s copycat nature, sometimes you have to listen to your vagina and shout, “I thought this was a party? LET’S DAAAAAANCE!”