Movie review: Footloose

 Julianne Hough and Ken Wormald star in the newest version of Footloose, still a high-energy dance movie

New ‘Footloose’ Takes Rousing Dance Scenes, Heartfelt Message to New Era

By Maggie Scott

In this rapidly politicizing year, it’s possible some might see the remake of Footloose as a rallying cry against conservatives.  While much more subtle in its depiction of fervent religious sanctions on the baser proclivities of youth than the original. This version retains the high-spirited resistance most vividly evoked in such lyrics of the famous title song as, “please, Louise, pull me off of my knees” (as in, praying) and “kick off your Sunday shoes.”

However, Kenny Loggins’ iconic anthem in this remake is as subversive as the proceedings get.  Director Craig Brewer’s PG-13 rated, faithful-to-the original version utilizes the 1984 movie’s screenwriter, Dean Pitchford (based on events of his youth), with Brewer’s co-writing input, as well.  Both men have seen fit—fittingly and most satisfyingly—to dedicate their concept for the film to the late (died 2001) director Herbert Ross, who steered such future mega stars as Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker through 1984’s memorable production that this new rendition irrefutably does proud.

From the music and choreography, to the fresh new leading talent (two, in particular, who are professional dancers and terrific actors), the new “Footloose” makes an immediate and sustained impression of excellence.

There is one qualifier: The world of the new film takes pains not to reflect any present-day harsh realities of teen life.  Set in what is presumed to be a small southern town, there are no typical plagues of such environments which offer limited options for kids and dark histories of by-gone days: no racism, no bullying, no meth labs and no drugs stronger than a joint (refused by the hero).  No cursing, smoking and cell phones, either.

There is some high-spirited chicken played with eccentrically decorated school buses (tractors in the original).  No, the chief instigator of parental worry and law enforcement action are loud music from car stereos and so-called unauthorized, organized teen dancing (particularly the kind that inspires “grinding”).

By city (Bomont, population 19,000) ordinance and pulpit preaching, the adults have made certain (so they hope) that their children will not yield to the temptation to move their bodies in ways that could lead to a renunciation of their spiritual values and peril to their physical safety.

For three years, since four (one, the pastor’s son) good kids were killed in a car crash after a dance, the town’s young people have begrudgingly lived with the prohibition—mostly to honor their fallen classmates.  But, there is the occasional break out of illicit gatherings (old drive-ins), where the kids cut loose.  There is also grumbling about the banning of such things as bandanas for fear of gangs (“this country was built on bandanas,” grouses one astute and witty young citizen).

Then, there are the “good girl” boundaries Ariel (Julianne Hough) pushes with her father, the Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid).  Both of them are still grieving the loss of Bobby, but Ariel has gotten tired of his death being used to shut her down.

Bomont’s closed-off world is about to be blown open with the arrival of Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald), an intelligent kid from Boston with a great deal of inner strength and convictions about the important things to sweat.  He does arrive with pre-conceived prejudices about the “huckleberries” and holy rollers he thinks the town is full of.

“It seems that church has everything to do with everything,” Ren observes; but his wise Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon) and Willard (Miles Teller), a sweet kid with two left feet (and that commonsense notion about bandanas), will help revise Ren’s initial judgment that the town must be redneck.

Then, there’s wild child Ariel.  She’s no innocent; but, like all the Bomont kids we meet, Ariel’s decent and just wants a chance to prove it.  From their right to dance, to their right to be trusted, Ariel and the town’s kids will find an eloquent, brave champion in Ren, after he makes a case for his own integrity.  From the rousing dance numbers, engaging humor and heartfelt message, to the charismatic acting, this film will have your feet and your heart

tapping with joy.

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