There are a number of questions surrounding the updated remake of the 1984 teen-angst-with-dance film Footloose, a movie that propelled Kevin Bacon into stardom and inexplicably became known as a “classic” over the decades.
Does the story of repressed youth still work today? Can anyone pull off the “iconic” roles created by Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow? Does Kenny Loggins make yet another comeback with the title song? Is Quiet Riot still on the soundtrack?
Well: Yes, Quiet Riot is still banging heads on the soundtrack. And no, there’s not a peep from Mr. Loggins.
The eponymous song is now handled by country singer Blake Shelton. The acting is uniformly good, with relative newcomer Kenny Wormald in the Ren role created by Bacon, and singer-actress Julianne Hough (pronounced Huff) taking on Lori Singer’s Ariel, though playing it in a far less annoying manner. A nice surprise is Dennis Quaid’s reworking of the stern, sad, overprotective preacher role that once belonged to Lithgow.
Does the film still work today? Well, it was a piece of fluff then, and it’s a piece of fluff now. But truth be told, this is a better, smoother, more entertaining version of the clunky original.
Of course, there are those who haven’t seen the original film. The story, followed quite closely in the remake, is about the goings-on in a little town in Georgia (it originally took place in the Midwest), where, due to a horrific, alcohol-influenced car accident that killed a group of teenagers after a big dance, there’s now a curfew for anyone under 18, as well as a ban on loud music and public dancing — unless it’s supervised at a church or a school.
To its credit, the remake opens with the accident onscreen, something that was only alluded to in the original.
Three years later, here comes city boy Ren McCormack, sent to live with some relatives after a family tragedy back at his home in Boston. (Trivia: Bacon’s Ren came from Chicago, but Boston native Wormald had such a strong Boston accent that the filmmakers changed the character’s hometown.) In short order, he meets Ariel, the daughter of Reverend Moore (Quaid), and, although sparks don’t immediately fly, there’s some definite interest between the two good-looking teens.
Drama develops when it’s revealed that one of the kids killed in that car accident was Ariel’s older brother. More drama comes about when some of the townsfolk decide Ren is a troublemaker — he gets pulled over for unknowingly “disturbing the peace” by playing loud music on his car radio.
Friends are made. As are enemies. There’s a terrific performance by Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) as Ren’s goofy new pal, Willard. One shortcoming of both films is the existence of the “jealous boyfriend” character, Chuck (Patrick John Flueger). He gets in the way of the story’s development, rather than adding anything to it, though a plus this time is turning the original’s painfully slow game of tractor chicken between our hero and his foe into a figure-eight school bus race.
Yet other minor characters do fill out the film nicely, notably Ren’s Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon), who adds some comic relief, as well as an unexpected edge of being the only hip or at least fair-minded adult in town.
Fans of the old film needn’t worry about a certain
favorite sequence. The bit featuring Ren letting off steam by solo
dancing his head (and feet) off in an abandoned warehouse is here in all
of its ridiculously choreographed glory.