Predictable plot, solid music and dancing
Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment
Reviewed for MovieWeb by Harvey Karten
Directed By: Craig Brewer
Written By: Dean Pitchford, Craig Brewer
Cast: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell
Screened at: AMC Lincoln Square, NYC, 10/10/11
Opens: October 14, 2011
Is there anything that Kenny Wormald can't do? He looks great, he can dance, he can do gymnastics, he can speak eloquently. He might even become this generation's James Dean. We'd want to see him again in a movie that's more serious than the enjoyable albeit trivial "Footloose," a remake of Herbert Ross's 1984 film that gave a great push to Kevin Bacon's career. There's every reason to remake the film for the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings, Craig Brewer's version scripted by him and Dean Pitchford updated to the current year, but one in which the high-school kids barely use cell phones and only a few computers are in sight at the school library. Some changes in the music are made, though the dialogue is not far off from the script of the original.
Director Brewer, whose "Hustle & Flow" (a Memphis pimp in mid-life tries to become a hip-hop emcee), is in his milieu, filling his new movie with country, rap, and rock, the adults standing on the sidelines like prunes determined to repress teen activity until, of course, by the conclusion they cheer the young 'uns on. From the opening scene embracing a vigorous dance by fun-loving kids, we get the point: it's good to be young, though with one reservation. When you're young and foolish, you are more likely than adults to drink behind the wheel, which makes it credible that some will die-as five teens do in a violent collision with a truck that leaves all dead, including the town reverend's only son. (One wonders about a respected reverend who loses one boy to drink and whose daughter is considered by some to be the town slut.)
"Footloose" is anchored by a performance by Kenny Wormald as Ren McCormack, a high-school senior who in real life is twenty-five years old. He lost his mom to leukemia, his father had bolted from the sick woman, and Ren, informally adopted by his uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon), gets transferred from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont (population 19,000). After five teens are killed in a crash, the city council unanimously declares that all public dancing is banned and that a curfew is imposed on folks below the age of twenty. Given his ebullient personality and good looks, Ren McCormack is quickly accepted by most southerners his own age, almost none of whom had been farther afield than Alabama. Like other teens, he is incensed that the church is in bed, so to speak, with the legislators, its minister, Rev. Shaw Moore (Dannis Quaid), among the ayes. So what are teens to do: spend Saturday nights in the library or sitting in front a computer when dancing provides far more exercise and the option to interact with others their age? No way. Together with his principal male friend, the awkward, dance-challenged hick Willard (Miles Teller), his potential girlfriend, Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough-who could conceivably play in a biopic in the role of Jennifer Aniston),he plans strategy, but not before Ren lets off a heap of steam in a factory warehouse, climbing and swinging on ropes only to be discovered by (who else?) Ariel, who has been spending too much time with the local redneck, Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger) who becomes increasingly hostile to his rival, whom he calls "Yankee Doodle."
Needless to say the obvious plot gets in the way of some terrific dancing, from the line steps popular in Southern small towns on Saturday night to break-dancing wherein the white guys could effectively challenge the African-Americans. Brewer caters to the crowd that will never get over the pleasure of watching cars, trucks and buses crash, particularly when at least one of the vehicles is on fire. "Footloose," then, provides a fun time of close to two hours to its principal audience with a great performance by Kenny Wormald. As with Kevin Bacon, Wormald's career is on the rise.
Rated PG-13. 113 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online