On a weekend when we have two remakes of 80s films, the question of whether or not the movement in Hollywood – which has led Producers into their own libraries for material to mine – has any merit. Footloose isn’t the great white hope no one is hoping for, but it holds its own.
Even you haven’t seen the original film (or subsequent stage musical), there’s not much ground to cover in the Footloose mythos. City kid, Ren, moves to the rural South, and encounters a culture clash reminiscent of how Rock and Roll, aka the Devil’s Music, threatened to turn children of the 50s into drug-addict heathens with a taste for blood. Of course, in Footloose, the culprit is instead dancing, and the adults of Bomont, Georgia decide to outlaw the act.
The idea that Dancing should could hurt the youth and should be banned isn’t much more ridiculous than it was in 1984, when the original was released. But it’s still pretty damn ridiculous, which makes any incarnation of Footloose a tough sell.
That’s why the film works best when it’s not taking itself too seriously. Footloose‘s strengths are found in its more playful moments, like when Ren mods a dusty old Volkswagen to run off a drawstring, and dumps a siren hooked up to an iPod in the trunk. And even the by-now-clichéd scene of frustrated, fury-burning dancing that takes place in an abandoned warehouse gets some energy moving (this time, though, the soundtrack is provided by the White Stripes instead of Kenny Loggins or Bonnie Tyler).
When the movie doesn’t work is when it takes its absurd, outdated story too seriously. That comes towards the end of the film, when it tries to justify the actions of Reverend Moore (Dennis Quaid), who has helped to enact and enforce the Dancing ban. Quaid can bring earnestness to any role with ease, but he misfires when he tries to play it straight. He’s an actor that could have had a lot of fun with a completely-out-of-touch character; but when he attempts to give it legitimacy, he just proves that there isn’t any to be had.
This weird turn towards the end of the film is so jarring that, when an unneeded Bully sideplot returns at the end for a good old fashioned brawl, it delivers a shot of adreniline that feels like it came from another film. Thank goodness it came, though; without it, Footloose would have ended unforgivingly sleepily.
This is the third film from writer/director Craig Brewer, but it improbably follows Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan. All have to do with music in the South, but Footloose doesn’t have any of the sticky life found in Brewer’s other films.
No, this one is a clinically created remake, formulated to make a quick buck and a keep its customers happy. And it will for two hours, then you’ll completely forget anyone ever remade the movie.