Movie Review: Footloose

Posted on October 14, 2011

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By Geoff Ratliff

Actual conversation between me and my wife on Thursday afternoon:

Me: “I’m going to see the Footloose remake tonight.”

Wife: “Why?” (The look was more incredulous)

Me: “Gotta do a review for the blog.”

Wife: “I wish you still worked in the city so you could just buy the bootleg.”

Me: “The bootleg would cost me $4, the actual theater only cost $6, and I really don’t want to have a copy of this movie taking up space in the house!”

So that tells you how enthusiastic I was about seeing this film. When I first heard that they were remaking this 1984 classic – about a high school aged kid from the North who moves to Bomont, TX to live with his uncle following the death of his mother – the obvious question was why? Sometimes remakes or reboots make a lot of sense – I’ll speak more in-depth on this on Monday – but this was not one of those times. In fact, I had no intention of ever seeing this film, that is until I got the bright idea to co-found a sports and pop culture blog and start doing movie reviews as a segment. Bright idea right?

Anyone who’s seen the original, especially if they are old enough to have seen it in theaters or during their youth, will undoubtedly go into this remake with low expectations, and there were two huge red flags that should scare most moviegoers off. One was the fact that Dennis Quaid was cast as Rev. Shaw Moore, played expertly by John Lithgow in the original. I don’t need to explain why the cheese factor of casting Quaid in this role was misguided. The more alarming sign was one of the cast members, during an interview at the films premier, felt the need to clarify that this was not just a dance movie, which is curious because the original is not really a dance movie either. Uh, oh!

After actually watching the film, my low expectations were confirmed, but the movie isn’t nearly as bad as I expected, nor does it fail for the reasons I expected either. Since this is not a social commentary, I’ll overlook the fact that someone involved with this film’s story or casting thought it was a good idea to cast a black man in the role of a boss of a cotton manufacturing plant in 2011. Really? Let’s stick with the actual cinematic flaws with the film. Let’s start with the soundtrack, highlighted by a horrific country rendition of “I Need a Hero” originally performed by Bonnie Tyler (include link to YouTube video). I was again taken aback by the image of the main character Ren McCormick – actually played gamely by Kenny Wormald – bumping Whiz Khalifa while driving a broke down Rabbit. The core problem with this movie, which becomes obvious once you consider the comments made by said cast member, is that it isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. It’s stuck somewhere in between an updated remake and the Step Up dance franchise.

As a straight updated remake, this movie would have been much stronger. Aside from Quaid, who absolutely does Rev. Moore’s character no justice, the rest of the cast delivers surprisingly strong performances. Julianne Hough is extremely credible as Ariel Moore, the rebellious preacher’s daughter. The real surprise of the movie is the performance Miles Teller as Willard, the stereotypical, redneck, Texas high school kid who becomes McCormick’s best friend in town. Teller absolutely kills every scene he’s in, to the point that he is a significant upgrade over Chris Penn, who played Willard in the 1984 version. What kills the film, ultimately, are the awful dance sequences. The only one that was tolerable was the line dancing scene in the country western nightclub. What does it say that a black guy who grew up in an urban setting thinks that the country line dancing scene was the best of the movie? If you’re going to play up the dancing a little more in 2011, at least execute the sequences well.

I didn’t walk out of the movie wishing I had my money or my time back. If you’ve never seen the original Footloose, this movie might work for you, but for those who are considering going to see it just for comparison’s sake, save yourself the trouble, especially if you’re a John Lithgow fan!

Follow Geoff on Twitter @snglemarriedguy

Posted in: Movie Reviews