I have a confession to make. I'm a bit of a "Footloosologist" and like most people of my kind, I have no valid reason to love this movie the way I do. Maybe it's the incongruity of making dancing such a life-or-death issue or Kevin Bacon's ability to bust a move, whenever he falls short on his acting game, I don't know. Maybe there is a subliminal, life-affirming message planted in the editing. Point is, I love the original FOOTLOOSE with unexplainable passion, but if you asked me to do a list of movies who were the least attracting for a reboot, it would probably have made my top 5. It's a perfect object, congealed in time. A memento of the apex for Hollywood's cocaine age, when screenwriters were too high to remember their own names and yet were given multi-million dollars projects by producers and investors who were as high as them. Who cares about the story after all, right? It's all about being on the same wave length, right?
If you're unfamiliar with this god-given story, here's the skinny, with the slight modifications brought by the new screenwriting team. Ren McCormack (Wormald) is a Boston youth who accompanied his mother in her long and painful fight against cancer. When she dies, he moves to Bomont, Illinois, where his mother comes from, with his uncle Wes (McKinnon) and his aunt Amy. Ren is rowdy and mischievous, but not exactly a rebel. Still, it's too much for the Bomont community, who likes its youth disciplines and obedient since a tragic car accident a few years ago. They live under the spell of conservative reverend Shaw Moore (Quaid). Kids can't blast music at max volume, they can't dance without parental supervision. Too much for Ren, who has a something to prove to the reverend Moore, who's daughter (Hough) happens to be plenty hot and rebellious.
Needless to say, I was waiting for this FOOTLOOSE with a pick axe and bad intentions. Unfortunately for my sadistic intents, it was quite...charming. Don't worry, it doesn't live up to the glorious piece of eighties memorabilia that was the original, but still, the re-writing of the original story demands respect. There is a good balance of original material and tribute to the magnificence of the Kevin Bacon to make it work. Kenny Wormald is stiffer and less comfortable in the frame, but he has a wild charm that makes his interpretation of Ren work. He's also one hell of a dancer. I didn't take offense to the "modernization" of the dance scenes. It was to be expected. I particularly enjoyed the country bar scene, which wasn't in the original, but lived up to its spirit.
WILLARD: I don't dance.
REN: What do you mean?
WILLARD: I...can't dance. At all.
REN: But it's country line dancing. The white man's dream
*ensues the most complicated line dancing choreography...ever*
That had me pausing the movie to laugh. I gotta say, the most agreeable surprise was the rewriting of Uncle Wes. He's a more important character, he's an overall-wearing redneck and he's...a pretty sharp, witty, stand-up kind of guy. What a fresh idea. Midwest people are always portrayed by Hollywood as dumb, slogan-saying hicks, sometimes as inbred monsters even. It was about time someone inserted a drop of perspective into the stereotypes. I know people from Missouri, Illinois and Indiana who are the smartest, most cunning people I know and it was about time someone in Hollywood acknowledged their existence. It's just strange it's a FOOTLOOSE reboot of all movies that introduced such character. If Craig Brewer's film is worth remembering for anything, it's for Uncle Wes. He has a memorable face-off with Reverend Moore.
While this FOOTLOOSE is a good movie, it's not a triumph. There are things that didn't work. Crucial scenes were replaced. The Amazing Tractor Death Race has been swapped for a complex and bloated figure-eight bus-of-death ride. The intent was commendable, but it's too crowded and confusing. Julianne Hough is also a pretty terrible Ariel. She blurts her lines out like a high school play actress, out of tune with her co-stars. It saddens me to say this, but it's the truth. She was boobs-for-hire. She's gorgeous, she shows the cleavage and she can dance. Too bad she can't act and most of the cast can. I don't know what went wrong there, but her game was the biggest downside of the movie.
You're not going to enjoy the FOOTLOOSE reboot if you didn't like the original. But if the first one struck a nerve with you as hard as it did with me, you'll like this one too. It lacks the Kevin Bacon factor and most adjustments it made detracted from its charm. But Craig Brewer knew what he was doing by tackling this behemoth of silly nostalgia and made a refreshed, up-to-date version that worships the original as much as I did. If I had been given the task, I probably wouldn't have done it better. Oh and I almost forgot. The barn dancing scene is there and lives up to its former glory. That was the second biggest upside after the increased involvement of Uncle Wes. I wouldn't have seen this in the theater, but this was worth my time.