Fans of the original 1984 classic may not be impressed to hear about this Footloose remake, but it has a lot more going for it than expected. The most obvious thing is that while writer-director Craig Brewer updates the film for a new adolescent audience, he remains surprisingly loyal to the original. So why bother? The familiar title will help the film travel well and just as Footloose targeted the Flashdance (1983) and Fame (1980) audience, the remake targets High School Musical, Glee and Step Up fans.
Boston boy Ren MacCormack (Wormald) gets a culture shock when, after his mother passes away from cancer, he moves to his uncle Wes (McKinnon) and aunt Lulu’s (Treme star Dickens) family in the small Tennessee town of Bomont. He unwittingly manages to rub up all the right people, the wrong way. However, he makes a good friend in Willard (Chris Penn’s lookalike and likeable replacement Teller), who is dating Rusty (Colon) and whose best bud is Ariel (Hough). Naturally, he doesn’t click with her boyfriend Chuck (Flueger) or her dad (Quaid), the local preacher, who helped enforce all the fun-zapping bans on dancing and loud music following the death of his son and four other teens three years earlier.
The original had Kevin Bacon (Ren) and Lori Singer (Ariel) of Fame fame (where is she now?), but the remake has James Dean lookalike Wormald (after High School’s Zac Efron dropped out amid typecasting fears) and Julianne Hough, well known in the US for Dancing with the Stars and dating E!'s Ryan Seacrest.
As well as a wardrobe and a music overhaul to target a new generation, the remake also redresses the race balance absent from the original. SJP, who played best bud Rusty first time around, is played here by Ziah Colon and Ren’s factory boss Woody, who was played by John Laughlin, is now played by Ser’Darius Blain.
For credibility purposes, the director of Oscar-winning Hustle & Flow has moved the action from the American mid west, to further down South, where it’s conceivable that drinking and dancing bans could still exist. The ever-present communication battle between parents and teens pulls the plot through, however I can’t see any Oscars on the horizon as no new ground is broken.
If you’re old enough to remember the original, that’ll still be your go-to movie for freestyle warehouse moves and out-of-town boy meets dying-to-be-out-of-town girl, although the challenge is on for naysayers to get through all 112 minutes, without tapping their feet or singing along.