Footloose (starring Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough)
As I sat reluctantly for my screening for the current studio version of FOOTLOOSE, I was surprised to hear the cheers and excitement coming from all around me when the film began. Granted, it was mostly thirteen-year-old girls but I still could hear the sounds of singing along to the title song. I don’t understand it! I feel sick and troubled at the whole scenario. Am I too close to the original? Do I need to grade this film on its own merit as if I’m seeing it for the first time? You know what? No! Of course I’m close to the original, it was made a mere twenty-seven years ago in 1984. How am I supposed to pretend that I’m seeing this film for the first time when the original is a historic pop culture phenomenon from recent times and the new one is nearly a shot for shot remake?
Making a near shot by shot remake of such a beloved film is unsettling. All I could think was how each moment was done better in the original. While I’ve disagreed with nearly all the remakes that have been happening, at least the new versions of films like PLANET OF THE APES, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, KING KONG, THE KARATE KID and countless others try to put a new spin on their story and make it current. The story about a small town in the South that outlaws dancing, doesn’t seem relevant or even plausible for today. Having the kids own iPods and cell phones doesn’t make this 80’s story current, especially when using the same yellow Volkswagen and skinny tie from the original. Yes, some 80’s clothing fashion seems to work for today’s kids, but that again begs to ask the question, “Why remake it?”
The only film that I can think that did a shot for shot remake is PSYCHO, but at least there, the original was revered for the exquisite cinematography and influence in film history. I hardly believe the original FOOTLOOSE was ever considered great because of the interesting camera work. It’s about the music, the dance and the great characters.
The filmmakers recognized that as the previous biggest selling soundtrack of all time, the FOOTLOOSE music was key. So along with every other aspect of the film, other than a couple of current songs, the music didn’t change. All our favorite tunes from the original are back, only sung with a little less passion by new artists. But don’t fret, the original “Let’s Hear It For The Boys” and “Footloose” do make an appearance that ironically provide most of the film’s energy.
With the exception of the naturally talented Miles Teller (RABBIT HOLE) as funny friend Willard, the gifted Ray McKinnon (THE BLIND SIDE) as supportive Uncle Wes and the magnetic Patrick John Flueger as the jerky boyfriend Chuck, nearly all the performance paled in comparison to their predecessors. As conservative preacher/father and mother to Ariel, Dennis Quaid (who I usually love) and Andie MacDowell (who I’ve decide is simply a bad actress) lack any of the heart or personality portrayed by John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest. Julianne Hough replacing Lori Singer and Kenny Wormald replacing Kevin Bacon as Ariel Moore and Ren McCormack do a fine job and it’s clear they are better dancers but I never once believed they were seniors in high school. It’s tough to blame the actors though when they are set up for a basic imitation of a film they are all too familiar with.
Have you ever seen a clip on YouTube where fans are imitating their favorite film, repeating lines and acting like their favorite characters? This is exactly like that but with a bigger budget. It’s as if aliens noticed that humans responded to FOOTLOOSE so they imitated their version of the film in hopes to communicate to us. There is no sense of emotional progression in story only copied scenes, which gets us from point A to point B. And who else in this town is against dancing? It appears that only the five men voting are, because just about every other person in this town loves to dance and supports Ren, making his so called difficult time at the new school in the new town preposterous.
It’s clear, with the success of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and all the STEP UP movies, making a dance film with an actual storyline would be the next step… up. But since apparently there are zero writers supporting these dance films, the natural process would be to piggy back off a popular 80’s dance film, replacing the actors and duping audiences to spend money on a lesser film rather than watch a far superior version that is readily available.
Maybe audiences who have never seen the original will like it but I wouldn’t know because I have and this new FOOTLOOSE infuriates me. I’m sure people would enjoy a remade version of films they didn’t see from last year, that doesn’t mean they should do it. I look at film as art not disposable razors. I’m closer to 25 than I am to 40, which I think hardly constitutes me as an old man, yet here I am telling stories about how things were better in my time.