Review in a Hurry: Cut loose with a reboot of the Kevin Bacon classic. Stylistically more similar to Step Up than High School Musical, the new Footloose again teaches us that kids just wanna dance, dammit! This guilty-pleasure update has an angsty adolescent energy that’s as infectious as anything in Contagion.
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The Bigger Picture: Kenny Loggins kills—literally! That’s the message of Footloose‘s opener, in which five teenagers die in a car crash while partying to Loggins’ title track. The harrowing accident establishes an edgier tone for this remake, though the story remains faithful to the beloved 1984 flick.
As a result of the tragedy, loud rock ‘n’ roll and underage dancing are banned in the small town of Bomont, Georgia. But three years later, things are all shook up with the arrival of rebellious city boy Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald).
Raucous Ren has run-ins with the law for blaring devil music and then rankles Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) by romancing his wild-ass daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough). An outsider with a “Yankee attitude,” Ren eventually wins over the townsfolk and rallies support to overturn the anti-dance ordinance.
Sure, the plot is corny, but more importantly, the music and choreography are catchy, and fans will appreciate nods to the original’s dance moves, dialog bits, and even exact shots. Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) does add a few fresh twists, including a race with tricked-out school buses (instead of bulldozer chicken), and finds a fun way to incorporate Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.”
A Southerner himself, Brewer also avoids hickified stereotypes and captures the local, oppressive culture without condescending to the characters. Plus, Quaid, in toning down the John Lithgow fire-and-brimstone hamminess, proves a more sympathetic figure.
Wormald has big cowboy boots to fill, and though he lacks Bacon’s star quality, he dances with great athleticism and spirit. He gets solid backup from feisty Hough—and Miles Teller (quietly affecting in Rabbit Hole) as his rhythmically challenged bud.
By Footloose‘s final dance, you too will want to kick off your Sunday shoes.
The 180—a Second Opinion: While most of the covered songs are fine, the unplugged version of Bonnie Tyler’s man anthem, “Holding Out for a Hero,” is a disappointment—mostly because you can understand the lyrics.
PHOTOS: Footloose Then & Now
(Originally published Oct. 13, 2011, at 5:07 p.m. PT)