“Footloose,” written by Dean Pitchford and Craig Brewer, directed by Brewer, 113 minutes, rated PG-13.
As all generational fads have a way of re-emerging as “retro” or ironically hip, dance movies have come back into fashion with the “Step Up” franchise leading the charge. Because of that, it was really only a matter of time before “Footloose” was resurrected from the bowels of Paramount’s archives.
Then again, a very wise man once said: “There’s a time to mourn, a time to dance, and a time to remake movies from the ’80s.”
Some will argue that Brewer’s “Footloose” is a needless reboot – an excuse to capitalize on a recent boom of dance-oriented shows and movies such as “Step Up” or “So You Think You Can Dance.” However, the 1984 version hasn’t aged gracefully, and its message has eroded dramatically over the years.
The sentiment of the movie – that young people should question authority, stand up for themselves and get the chance to learn from their mistakes – is as relevant as ever. Brewer’s “Footloose” is edgier and angrier than its predecessor, and it schools the YouTube generation on how to fight the establishment.
Equally important: It teaches them how to dance.
However, Brewer does make several critical mistakes with his “Footloose,” primarily in his inability to distance this film from Herbert Ross’ 1984 film. Brewer takes the movie in a direction that is beyond comically referential, to the point where he’s simply redoing scenes as though the original is sacred territory not meant to be tampered with.
But Brewer has a strong voice, bringing a deep South soul to the project that only he could pull off.
There are other bright spots in “Footloose,” chief among them the breakout performance of unknown Massachusetts native Kenny Wormald as Ren MacCormack.
MacCormack gets a hero’s entrance, striding into Bomont with his Ray-Ban shades and a wanderer’s pack slung over his shoulder. Much like Kevin Bacon defied the laws of Hollywood in 1984, Wormald doesn’t fit the hero mold that every studio dreams of.
Slightly goofy, slight in stature and light on his feet, Wormald would be a better fit for a part on “Glee” than being cast as a leading man in a blockbuster release. But we’re nearing a day when the two aren’t so far apart. And, after all, this is a remake of “Footloose,” not “Red Dawn.”
In the same way that Brewer brings his voice in the project’s setting, Wormald and choreographer Jamal Sims inject theirs through the film’s dancing. It’s distinct, fusing gymnastics, ballet and hip-hop. One scene in particular, set to The White Stripes’ “Catch Hell Blues,” might just leave you floored.
Wormald, of course, isn’t the only actor here with a budding career. Julianne Hough, of “Dancing with the Stars” fame, holds her own opposite Dennis Quaid, despite some dialogue that could have come straight out of a daytime soap opera.
But let’s be honest, no amount of poor writing or unoriginality can suck the life out of “Footloose.” Once the film hypnotizes you with Kenny Loggins’ infectious and immortal theme song, there’s no turning back.