If you haven't seen the 1984 original, this next paragraph is for you. For those who are familiar with the original, nothing in the plot has changed. A city kid, Ren (Kenny Wormald), moves to the small town of Bomont. While there, he finds out that dancing and loud music have been banned after an accident that took the lives of several local kids. Reverend Shaw (Dennis Quaid) is the ringlea--excuse me--most avid supporter of these laws and doesn't take a liking to Ren. Oh, and he has a daughter, a snot-nosed rebel.
Who do we side with? That question seemed so obvious to answer in the original. We rooted for the teens to have a chance to cut loose and dance; to have a chance to just be kids! Twenty-seven years later, in a near-identical remake, I can't answer that question. I want to side with the kids, but they're such loathsome people. They're disrespectful to every adult, reckless in nature, and behave on constant highs of rage. The adults trying to legislate good behavior aren't much better. They are stubborn and heartless, with exception to the Reverend (whose character gets enough screen time to be fleshed out).
The toe-tapping energy in all of the dance sequences was engaging. Even though this remake is set in the present day, I was glad to see that the dancing styles weren't overly modernized. The choreography matches what one would imagine a small-town dance party would contain. That relates to another good thing about Footloose, both the new and the old editions. The reason the dancing scenes are so engaging isn't because of how cool the moves are. Instead, the good music selection, vivid cinematography, and the energy of the cast make the dancing come alive and become fun, rather than just being a show or a spectacle.
I know for certain I didn't like this new Footloose. But that raised a very strange question. What the hoo-hah did I like about the first one? This remake is a near-parallel to what was in the original. What gives? Was it just more fresh the first time around? Did the original work in the more classic way it was made? Was I just wrong? Well since I never mind seeing a good thing twice; and because this new remake is as "classically-made" as the original; and since, of course, I'm never wrong, it must be something else.
Here's where this new Footloose misses the mark: it's all about the conflict and not about the situation. The original Footloose had a sort of goofy liveliness to its setup. There was a situation, and there were certain conflicts that spun out from that. Towards the end of the original, the Reverend walks out to find the townspeople burning books. It's then that he realizes that the situation has gotten out of hand, tying all of the loose conflicts together. Here's a town that got out of control with their "protective" legislature.
Twenty-seven years later, we don't have a modern take on the situation. We have a replica. I actually liked that they didn't modernize it. But instead of working like the original by lightly treading on the conflicts throughout and supporting the entirety with a general situation, it stomps through with a lead foot. Calculated situation after calculated setup arise, but Footloose never seems to really move anywhere. It gets stuck in the marsh of today's filmmaking and storytelling. Where a central conflict isn't enough. Where stray problems need to be highlighted to keep an audience engaged.
Footloose is alive in step but dead in storytelling. It doesn't seem to realize that the premise and the dancing are enough to carry the movie. Bogged down with overwrought contention and stuffed with unlikable leads, Footloose never sold me on anything but the dancing. Remakes should never be made unless there's a new take on the old story. This 2011 update is such a carbon copy that it rarely takes the time to stop trying to fit in all of the pieces and just cut loose.