Footloose originally strutted into town way back in 1984, a tale of toe-tappin’ teen rebellion that jumped and jived its way into lots of hearts. Later, it became nostalgia fodder as a Broadway musical. And now it’s back on the big screen, in a high-energy remake by writer-director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) that hews closely to the original storyline but amps up the dance energy to achieve parity with the spate of dance-centric movies that have been popular this last decade.
In this version a recently orphaned Ren MacCormack has relocated from big city Boston to small town Bomont, a redneck outpost in Georgia where Friday night football and stern sermonizing from the Sunday pulpit are the two acceptable forms of worship. Ren isn’t in town for more than a day before the local cop busts him for playing his car stereo too loud. The lad is stunned, but he’s too busy making friends and making eyes at the school’s hottest blonde to care all that much.
Soon, Ren hears about the town tragedy three years before, when five teens coming back from a dance died in a terrible car crash. Ever since, the town council has banned any kind of loud music and public dancing. He also learns that blonde, blue-eyed Ariel is a wild child whose boyfriend is a loutish drag racer. More interesting, Ariel is the daughter of the town’s strict minister (Dennis Quaid), whose other child died in that fiery car crash. The job of the script is clear: Ren and Ariel are too very different rebels who have to skirmish a bit before falling in love, at the same time as those anti-dance ordinances have to be contested at a big Town Hall meeting. And, of course, once Ariel’s brutish boyfriend becomes an “ex,” he and Ren are destined for a final confrontation. In short, this is Scriptwriting 101.
What makes Footloose a treat to watch is the stylish filming of the several dance setpieces studded throughout the film. One of the best happens at the local burger joint when the owner waits till the cop leaves, then lets the kids play their music over his outdoor speakers. The parking lot transforms into an illicit dance party whose subtext seems to be an entire high school’s worth of sexual repression. And these kids are busting some great moves – so much so that, when you catch your breath, you ask yourself when and how they all learned to make like rural disciples of Alvin Ailey.
The acting is fine, and the characters feel like contemporary teens, even as they follow a script that’s as rigidly defined as Kabuki theatre. These are likeable characters and all they want is simple justice: “This is our time,” exhorts Ren when he’s pleading with Bomont’s parents to allow a rockin’ high school prom. Fun-loving – but admittedly forgettable – Footloose has simple choreography and rarely puts a foot wrong. M
Footloose ★ ★ ★
Directed by Craig Brewer; Starring Kenny Wormald, Dennis Quaid
PG-13 – 113 minutes; Continues at Capitol, SilverCity, Uni 4, & Westshore
Underage drinking is never a good action plan, so we’re focusing on nervous parents who are waiting for their little darlings to get back from the dance safe and sound (chastity intact would be too much to hope for). The world’s best-selling Irish whiskey is Jameson’s, and it’s as good a painkiller as any, with notes of fudge and spice and finishing with a hint of sherry.