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Movie Review: "Footloose" reboot has fun moves of its own

Out this Friday!


Footloose (2011) 
113 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B +


Whether or not remaking the frothy, entertaining 1984 Kevin Bacon-starrer was part of your hopes and dreams, Hollywood went ahead and did it anyway. At first sight, modernizing the "you kids and your rock n' roll!" story shouldn't make much sense in 2011. And it might have just been another "Step Up" or "Stomp the Yard" with all the midriff-baring booty shaking to a hip-hop rhythm. But while the narrative is religiously beat for beat, this "Footloose" surprisingly reverberates with some fun, energized, and sexy moves of its own. 


In the role that made Kevin Bacon a star, newcomer Kenny Wormald plays Ren McCormack, a Bostonian teen who moves to the fictional Bomont, Tennessee, to live with his Aunt Lulu (Kim Dickens), Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon), and their two young daughters after his mother dies from cancer. Coming into town with a defiant spirit and talent for gymnastics/dancing, Ren catches the eye of Ariel (Julianne Hough), the goody-two-shoes-turned-rebel daughter of overprotective Reverend Moore (Dennis Quaid) and his wife Vi (Andie MacDowell). A few years back, the town suffered a tragedy influenced by music and dancing: five teens were killed in a car accident, one of them being the reverend's son. As a result, said pastimes that were allegedly the cause are prohibited in Bomont. Ren's Yankee sarcasm doesn't go over well with the local cops, and when he fixes up his uncle's Yellow Volkswagen, nor does his loud rock n' roll. The Lord of the Dance immediately befriends hickish football player Willard (Miles Teller), who can't dance; shows up Ariel's hardened beau (Patrick John Flueger) in a game of chicken on school buses; and writes a petition to abolish Bomont's strict laws and start the dance revolution. 


At the helm, director Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan") is an edgy choice for this dated material. The film may open with the title Kenny Loggins single and some fancy footwork, but begins in earnest: the group of teens leave a party after dancing (and drinking), turn up the radio, and get into the car wreck that tames the town. This time, the banning of dance is (believably) more about protection than being sermonized as a condemnation to Hell. Brewer, credited for co-writing the script, and original writer Dean Pitchford respect the first "Footloose" with pieces of line-for-line dialogue, taking heed of what made that '80s time capsule work so well and then putting a modern, electric spin on it. Racial integration! Country line dancing! No banning of Slaughterhouse Five! The morning mass sermons are still here, as is the "Yearbook" graffiti wall inside a boxcar and Ariel walking in front of a train. The "prom" finale has the exact confetti-filled, "Let's dance!" shot but kicks off with an updated cover of Loggins' "Footloose" by country artist Blake Shelton. What's so refreshing and new about a dance movie in the 21st century like this is not finding all the dancing edited into chop-suey pieces; we actually see full bodies dancing. 


Wormald, a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake, is all instant charm with James Dean's coolness, attitude, and good looks. His angry dance in the abandoned warehouse is impressive, as he shows off all his own acrobatic moves. A ballroom-dancing pro and vet of TV's "Dancing With the Stars," Hough is made for the screen. She's sexy, sassy, and appealing with her piercing blue eyes and shows off her bread-and-butter in those tight jeans and red cowgirl boots. These two generate heat together and are real stars in the making. Adorably dorky and funny, Teller ("Rabbit Hole") is an engaging scene-stealer in the sidekick role of Willard, who learns to dance in the montage set to "Let's Hear It For the Boy" that originated with the late Chris Penn. Less memorable than Sarah Jessica Parker, Ziah Colon is still a cute sparkler as Ariel's spunky friend Rusty. 


This MTV-produced cover probably won't define the generation like its predecessor, but it's slickly done, tons of fun, and made for our time. It also should make Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough stars like the original did for Bacon. "Footloose" makes you want to kick off your Sunday shoes all over again. 

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