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'Footloose' with more flair

October 14, 2011|By Katherine Tulich
  • Julianne Hough (center) plays Ariel and Kenny Wormald plays Ren (second from center) in "Footloose," from Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment. (Photo by K.C. Bailey)
Julianne Hough (center) plays Ariel and Kenny Wormald…

When “Footloose” originally came out in 1984, it was a dance movie with a flimsy plot about a town that bans public dancing and the young rebels that see a cause to resist. But its catchy soundtrack rode a nascent MTV tidal wave and spawned six Top 40 songs, turning the film into a huge sleeper hit and its lead Kevin Bacon into a star.

Rebooting the original, especially in this era of dance reality TV shows, is not a bad idea, and this slicked-up, more-hot-stepping version that casts two experienced dancers (Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough) certainly amps up the volume with both of them doing some fancy footwork — everything from a little dirty dancing to line dancing.

Director Craig Brewer (“Hustle and Flow”), who consulted the original screenwriter and song lyricist Dean Pitchford, pays considerable homage to its predecessor with a mirror storyline and copycat dialogue, updated to include more contemporary references. Brewer does add more dramatic punch to the opening. As in the original, a car crash kills some of the kids (including the preacher’s son) after a night of partying precipitating the town’s draconian laws. But this time Brewer chooses to show it. He also wisely changed the setting from a white-bread town to a more updated, integrated small community.


The new soundtrack also reflects a more southern country-rock essence with the Kenny Loggins feature track now sung by Blake Shelton and remakes of favorites like “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” and “Almost Paradise.” There are also new tracks by the likes of Zac Brown, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd paired with Cee Lo Green.

This is definitely not just another remake spit out by a studio looking for a quick box-office buck. It’s actually pretty good as lightweight entertainment goes, especially if you haven’t seen the original.

In comparison, the ’80s version might look a little cheesy now, but it still has an authenticity this shiny new one lacks, mainly due to the original’s excellent casting, which also included Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn in supporting roles. John Lithgow nailed the performance of the stoic preacher in the first one, while Dennis Quaid just looks uncomfortable in this one.

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