All the right moves – Footloose review

Footloose – Starring Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid. Directed by Craig Brewer. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

Craig Brewer directs films like a man with electricity emanating from his fingertips. It feels like his pictures might, at any point, ignite into a fiery ball of sex (and his last feature, Black Snake Moan, almost literally does). His movies begin so ecstatically; the remainder of each could virtually coast on the rocket-fuelled adrenaline of their opening sequences. But he’s not one to squander a captive audience. Littered throughout are musical sequences so vibrantly conducted and composed that they send shivers down your spine, no matter how many times you’ve seen them. His latest pic, a remake of Footloose, is not as impressive as his impassioned breakout flick Hustle and Flow, but it achieves the unthinkable. Out-Frankensteining Dr. Frankenstein himself, Brewer jolts unbridled life into a 27-year-old tale about illegal and immoral dancing in a small but super-religious Southern town. I offer this hyperbole not to paint Brewer as the Terrence Malick of modern exploitation cinema, but instead to offer a reminder that in the right hands, these kinds of features (reboots, dance flicks, whatever) can still be good. Footloose is what we talk about when we talk about having fun at the movies.

Kenny Wormald stars as Ren McCormack, a newly-orphaned Bostonian teenager who moves to the teensy Southern town of Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle. An eager dancer and former gymnast, he’s astounded by Bomont’s arcane (but actually only three-years-old) law against public dancing and curfews for teenagers, endorsed by local Reverend Moore (Dennis Quaid). The holy man has his reasons; his only son and four other teens were claimed in a drunken car accident after one particular party went off the rails. But that was then, and this is now, and Ren is eager to bring some life back to this constantly-mourning town. And if he should attract the Rev’s bad girl daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) in the process, so be it.

Footloose never quite overcomes the silliness of the core story, but it ably dances (geddit?) around it thanks to a solid cast (particularly, and surprisingly, newcomers Wormald and Hough, as well as Rabbit Hole‘s Miles Teller as their buddy Willard), and Brewer’s aforementioned steady (and when necessary, unhinged) hand at the wheel. If you’re looking for something beneath the surface, it works as a sweet parable about parents slowly loosening the grip they have on their children. But who needs to reach for that kind of thoughtful analysis when the dance scenes are as incredible as they are here? (I’m kidding; thoughtful analysis is good fun.) They intermittently capture the intensity of David LaChapelle’s documentary Rize, but still make sense and work in the context of the film’s reality. Even during the infamous ‘angry dance’ bit (note to the people behind the abysmal Step Ups; this is how you do it). The cinematography from DOP Amy Vincent is sumptuous, adding a level of professionalism and polish to the finished product that helps elevate it above other lazy reimaginings of nostalgic classics. Brewer understands the importance of setting, and grounds his features with a sense of place. Bomont feels like a real town, and these feel like real events. Ridiculous, but real events.

I’ve not seen the original Footloose; it wasn’t of my generation, and I’ve felt no need to check it out ahead of, say, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Therefore, I can’t assure fans of the first that it doesn’t desecrate its memory. But as it stands alone, Brewer’s Footloose is indeed a fancy-free and (I’ll say it again) fun time. It also – at a pivotal point – has the good sense to avoid a ‘slow clap’, when you just know it would have been so easy to go there. And I appreciated that.

4/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Footloose arrives in Australian cinemas October 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “All the right moves – Footloose review”

  1. Yeah, if something isn’t “of your generation,” then why bother with it. With the internet, streaming video, netflix, etc, it’s easier than ever before to catch up on older movies – especially when you’re reviewing one that is a remake. Not bothering to do so is pure laziness; perhaps that’s something “of your generation.”

  2. I am a 61 yr old grandmother that loved the original Footloose, that being said, this new Footloose blows it out of the water. I love this one better, the actors, they go in to more explaining what is going on in that town, they explain the relationships between Ariel and her dad and Ren and Willard, If you haven’t seen the original and watch this one first, the original is kind of lame and slow compared to this one. Kenny is much better looking than Kevin and Lori Singer can’t hold a candle next to Julianne in looks, dancing, or acting. Go see it, give it a chance.

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