Wednesday, 19 October 2011


2011. Dir: Craig Brewer. Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller and Andie MacDowell. ●●●○○

It's strange. It's been nearly a week since I saw the 80's dance classic remake Footloose and whilst I distinctly remember enjoying it, and seemingly floating out of the cinema on a cloud of warm air, I cannot for the life of me remember why. It's almost as if the movie only ever had ambitions to make you hum Kenny Loggins' theme track on the way out and then promptly forget each of the preceding 113 minutes. Luckily I wrote a cpouple of scribblings down during the bus ride home or I'd never be able to write up anything close to a review.

I also feel the need to confess I saw Paramount's latest teen-dance flick for free. I have filled a form out somewhere saying I blog and would appreciate free tickets for films which I would then write up. Usually I'm too busy or the tickets have already been given out, or the film looks rubbish, so I don't get them but this time it worked. You can now spend the rest of the post judging whether my unexplainable amnesia or the generosity of Paramount had the greatest effect on my comments.

If you lived under a rock during the 80's, or let's assume kindly you weren't born, then you may not know the 1984 original which launched the career of Kevin Bacon (and let it be known here that in spite of replacement Kenny Wormald's Rebels without a cause lite stylings and likeable delivery he will never be the sixth degree of Hollywood ubiquity) and featured the unlikely conversion of a town dedicated to crushing the teenage dancers to one willing to slowly accept their love of bump'n'grind. Here Wormald finds himself relocating to Bomont, Tennessee following the untimely passing of his mother and just before his graduating year of high school. He instantly falls for the rebellious Preacher's daughter (Hough, looking mightily like a young Jennifer Aniston) and, partly to win her heart from her oily sexually predatory stock car racing boyfriend (Patrick John Flueger), partly to find a physical release for his former champion gymnastic body (seriously - although his school seems not to care for his former athletic prowess) he must stand up against the militant townsfolk, led by Dennis Quaid, the Preacher father of Hough. You shouldn't be as confused as this plot synopsis sounds as there aren't that many characters.

I don't want to give away the ending, but if you've seen the poster you know that Wormald and Hough spend some time towards the end of the movie dancing, this is after Wormald's reciting passages from Leviticus at the town meeting in an attempt to move the puritanical bunch. You may during that scene finally lose your rage with the screenplay, of it isn't enough that rock 'n' roll moves were banned for no apparent reason - I realise the justification is the death of five local teens on the way home from an all nighter, but it looked like teenage drinking and poor driving skills were responsible not the form of entertainment they were up to - but the extent of Wormald's argument for dancing is "The Bible says it's OK" in passages that in no way reflect the town's specific underage dance prohibition.

Of course the film isn't trying to show real critical reasoning, indeed in places the moral message seems surprisingly twee. The hero of the piece is a wannabe lone wolf, angry at the world and ready to rebel at it's small c conservative core. However the most hardcore resistance he offers is playing loud music in a clapped out VW Beetle. He refusing drugs point blank and won't kiss Hough until she and Flueger are finished and even then anything more sexual than a slow twirl around the barn floor seems out of the question.

On a side note it's interesting to see the difference between American and British conurbations, like the fictional Bomont I grew up in a population around 20,000 and when the headteacher said there were around 220 kids in the final year of school I nearly fell off my chair, such were the numerical similarities to my childhood. But the thought of a town council actually being able to make a decision like banning dancing, let alone enforce it, seems like something out of the dark ages to this small-town boy. Indeed the most discussed motions in Melksham would be the date the Christmas decorations go up.

Movies like this live or die on the dance floor of course, and the variety and joie de vivre of the dance scenes is evident throughout, from a grungy car park face off to a superclub C&W Line dance, not to mention the obligatory update of Bacon's angsty solo. Wormald is infinitely better in that respect, bringing an athleticism to his moves that Bacon could only dream of, although you could question whether the character should have that polished a technique? It's a shame also to hear the best two tracks in the soundscape are the two Oscar nominated songs pilfered from the original, Footloose is used to post-ironically point the way to the original whilst Let's Hear it for the Boy hilarious plays during an affectionate montage sequence.

Wormald copes well with the blandness of his character, nailing the angry exchanges with his recent memory and the lost puppy looks, and in a attractive best friend kind of way he could have a career ahead of him. The less said about Hough's wooden performance the better though, I suspect she was given advice from Andie McDowell who floats in as her mother. However all of these performances are firmly in the shade of Miles Teller, excelling as the best friend Willard, always ready for a fight and so filled with manly pride he refuses to dance throughout the first two acts, he alone manages to bust through the stereotypical character profile and give a fully rounded comic performance with just a touch of self-awareness. When combined with his sterling work as the teenage driver in Rabbit Hole earlier this year you realise this is a guy to watch.

Craig Brewer, with cinematographer Amy Vincent, know how to light a scene and show the cast in their best but it's certainly not as edgy or interesting as their last two films Black Snake Moan and Hustle & Flow, making you hope that whatever Brewer moves on to he can return to that dangerous style. Whilst this version may be just a little too beholden to the original there's enough here to justify watching this as an alternative some Saturday afternoon or mid-week sleepover in the future, and I for one certainly think it was worth every penny I spent on seeing it.


TomS said...

I felt that way about the first Footloose, way back in my college days... I had a great time while I was watching it, in spite of my misgivings a week afterward.... Sort of like an amusement park ride, or a tasty but not especially norishing pizza...! Should I see the new one?

Runs Like A Gay said...

Rent it on DVD, then you can put your feet up eat it with your non-nourishing pizza and wear your PJs. It's that sort of film.