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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Footloose | Kenny Womald and Julianne Hough | Review

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Footloose, Herbert Ross' 1984 classic teen musical that catapulted Kevin Bacon to fame gets a reboot in writer/director Craig Brewer's (Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan) new version that mostly follows the orginally story, but with a few variations.

On the upside, the film features dynamic dance sequences and engaging performances by its leading man and woman, professional dancers/ turned actors, newcomer Kenny Womald and Julianne Hough (two time champion dance pro from TV's Dancing With the Stars) who made her feature film debut in last year's Burlesque. On the downside, the plot device of a law that prohibits loud music and dancing carried over from the original was outdated and implausible in 1984 and even more so in present day U.S. society, regardless of its setting, the conservative South. Unlike the lily white original, the remake features an integrated atmosphere of white, blacks and Latinos and it doesn't make sense that a town this backwards would be so tolerant of ethnic and racial diversity. That said, a new generation of dance fans that probably never saw the 1984 film will most likely find this film appealing for its musical elements and good looking leads that indeed exude heated chemistry and are fantastic dancers.

This fish out of water/rebel with a cause tale follows Ren McCormack (Warmold, in aptly suited James Dean style hair and attitude), a young man from Boston (instead of Chicago) who comes to the fictional small town of Bomont, Georgia to live with his Aunt Lulu (Kim Dickens) and Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon Sons Of Anarchy, Deadwood) after the death of his mother. There, Ren, who loves to dance, befriends the likeable and funny Williard (scene stealing, Miles Teller, far removed from his serious role in “Rabbit Hole”) who can't dance, but proves to be a quick learner. In church Ren sets his eyes on Ariel, (Julianne Hough, replacing Lori Singer), the pretty, trampy/rebellious daughter of Reverend Shaw Moore (miscast, Dennis Quaid) a religious fanatic whose son, Bobby, was one of the teens that died in a fatal car accident three years earlier. Because of the tragedy, and as reason to protect their young residents from “evil temptation” and danger, the town board led by Reverand Moore had placed a curfew on those under the age of 21 and instituted a law banning loud music and dancing.

Of course, Ren, as the big city boy stuck in this small “Mayberry” like town, finds it difficult to fit in, and in no short order finds himself in trouble with the powers that be for blasting loud music from his newly reconditioned VW bug and later caught holding a marijuana joint in the local library. Fed up with the oppressive rules and regulations, Ren takes it upon himself to challenge the archaic ordinances using the bible as reference to support his point, while in the process, falling for the preacher's troubled daughter, Ariel.

In smaller supporting roles are model/actress Andie McDowell (returning to the the screen after a long time away) as Ariel's mother Vi, offering a voice of reason; Patrick John Flueger (resembling a young Patrick Swayze) is Chuck, Ariel's abusive race car driver boyfriend, and Ziah Colon, of Puerto Rican heritage, is Ariel's curly haired best friend, Rusty (formerly portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker).

Granted, Footloose does capture the vitality of the old film with its energetic choreography and catchy soundtrack featuring new versions of oldies but goodies, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”, “Holding Out for a Hero,”and “It's Almost Paradise”.

Die hard fans of the original film will enjoy recreations of memorable dance numbers, most notably the abandoned warehouse dance sequence where Ren is able to release his pent up frustration and anger to the White Stripes' Catch Hell Blues that shows off Warmolds athleticsm and his high flying (literally) dance moves.

For me, it is all about the dance and not the outdated, nonsensical storyline with its predictable outcome. I wanted to see more choreography and less dialogue. From what I remember, the old Footloose wasn't in the league of great musicals, but it was enjoyable and made its mark on a generation. While the remake is fairly entertaining, I doubt it will follow in those foot steps.

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