After a horrific accident takes the lives of five high school seniors, the town of Bomont, Tennessee outlaws a number of activities for the teenage populace including dancing. Enter Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald), a city kid and distinct outsider to the close knit Bomont townspeople. He is confused by the bans, and after making a few new friends, sets out to get them abolished.
While the nostalgia factor may cloud the memories of some people, the original Footloose is really nothing more than a fun diversion packed alongside an absolutely infectious soundtrack that is still great even today. It is a fairly silly film really, but with the help of Kevin Bacon's 1984-era charm and charisma, the film remains a wildly enjoyable film. Yet somehow, in remaking the film for an audience in 2011, it seems like the filmmakers missed more than a few steps along the way.
Now I will be the first to admit that this new remake does have a handful of fun scenes and astonishing dance choreography. The trailers do a good job of showing off just how great some of the dance moves are from this new cast, but what it does not let on too much is that most of these scenes come when they are replicating scenes from the original film. I basked in the glory of hearing Kenny Loggins blasting, while watching the various pairs of feet dancing to the beat. And seeing Willard (Miles Teller) learning how to dance is one of the highlights of the film, much like it is the original film. A key dance sequence late in the film is also significantly better than I could have ever predicted.
But that is where the enjoyment ends.
The rest of the film that surrounds these scenes is dull and lifeless, moving at a snail's pace and just going through the motions. There is very little fun to be had, and should someone venture into the film without having seen the original, they may wonder why anyone wanted to remake it in the first place. Instead of trying to improve and make the plot line less ludicrous, the filmmakers left the entire crux of the film the exact same. They merely changed a few character traits around, shuffled in some racy dialogue, and took out the tractors and added in school buses. They sucked out all the fun, and what is left seems like a mere project that was cranked out with little to no thought for what audiences may actually perceive to be enjoyable.
Worse yet, the soundtrack is a totally forgettable affair. While it is the crucial element of the original film, it feels like a largely laughable affair here. I was originally intrigued at the idea of the film containing all the original songs, albeit covered by new artists. But somehow, all of the catchiness of the original tunes seems to have been stripped from these new ones. Instead, we are left with versions that have a country twang or overtly urban feel to them, and absolutely no reason to want to listen to these new versions ever again. I would be lying if I did not think the most memorable tracks in the film were the two original ones that somehow were deemed okay to fit into the film. I would register a guess that this is the influence of Brewer, who is best known for Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan. He has a distinctly Southern taste to his body of work, and practically forces it on this film. But in forcing this ideology, alongside two completely different genres of music, he crushes the film into submission, leaving many scenes an absolute mess.
The acting in the film is even more disappointing. Dennis Quaid looks embarrassed in every scene he is in, overacting as much as he possibly can to forget that he is in the film. Andie McDowell looks like she wandered in off the wrong set, and just decided to stick around as a background character. Wormald is a poor substitute for Bacon, and is an even worse lead for a major motion picture. I realize he is a dancer first and foremost, but leaving him to carry this film was an awful decision. He looks frightened and confused for the majority of the film, and quivers through most of his lines. He lacks Ren's charm, and is never believable when he rebels against authority. You want to believe in this character, but all you will do is laugh at how staggeringly bad Wormald's performance is. Julianne Hough, the female lead, at least attempts to act. She comes close to a breakthrough in more than one instance, but she comes off a bit too amateur for her own good. She makes a great dance partner for Wormald, but for what little shred of chemistry she has, it is made totally moot when he opens his mouth.
What redeems the film from being the awful travesty it should be is Teller's performance as Willard. The moment he walks on-screen, he has an energy to him that is simply unmatchable. He is the single best thing about the film, embodying the innocence, spirit and fun of Chris Penn's original performance. If you venture into this remake, see it for him and ignore the rest. You may find some remotely enjoyable experience buried in there somewhere.