By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
Had it cut loose a bit from its namesake original, Footloose might have been fancy-free.
Instead, it’s got retread written all over it.
Take two of Footloose is a reboot of the popular 1984 teen dance drama that made a star of Kevin Bacon as an anti-authoritarian big-city boy who likes to dance, but who finds himself in a small town in which dancing is banned.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald inherits the Bacon role, that of Ren McCormack, the rebel-with-a-cause protagonist, gifted dancer, and former gymnast from Boston who comes to the small fictional town of Bomont, Tennessee, after his mother dies to live with his aunt and uncle.
Dennis Quaid takes over the antagonist role, played in the original by John Lithgow, as the stern minister who is passionately opposed to public dancing because of a local tragedy that occurred after a local dance event three years ago.
So, because dancing is now seen as immoral, it’s been made illegal as well. And not only is dancing banned, but loud music is as well, and the early curfew for the town’s teens is strictly enforced.
Julianne Hough plays the minister’s frustrated and bitter daughter, Andie MacDowell plays the minister’s wife and Miles Teller is the film’s much-needed comic relief as Ren’s gangly new non-dancing buddy.
The director, Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) — who wrote the screenplay as a collaboration with the scenarist of the original, Dean Pitchford — keeps the core story very much intact; includes, country, rap, and rock musical numbers; and delivers glancing blows to the abiding themes of counterproductive repression and parental over protectiveness. However, the plot of his overly reverent script seems out of date and the replicated dialogue sounds stuck in the past.
The remake neither sufficiently distinguishes itself from its predecessor nor replicates it impressively enough to quiet our reservations about why a redo was undertaken in the first place — or, more to the point, second place.
So it’s slightly tweaked, slightly embellished, slightly updated and slightly integrated.
It is, in a word, slight.
That never feels more the case than when Wormald and Hough are dancing, which they do quite well, which is when you realize how much more arresting their dancing is than their acting — at this point, anyway — and how little in the way of chemistry they have actually exhibited anywhere but on the dance floor.
But if nothing else stubs Footloose‘s toe, it’s a climactic fistfight scene in a parking lot that’s not only head-scratchingly unnecessary, but howlingly phony, undercutting the dance finale and rendering it anticlimactic and superfluous.
So we’ll line-dance in between 2 stars out of 4 for the harmless but charmless second version of Footloose. Here’s a re-processed mediocrity that makes its respectable-but-no-great-shakes predecessor seem like a dance-flick classic — no mean feet.