Footloose: Kick off your shoes and enjoy

Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Going into Footloose I knew very well what I was going to see, something that I hope all of you will do as well.  Footloose, much like the 1984 movie it’s based off of, is a fun, simple movie. And when you see it in this context it succeeds on all levels, but if you’re looking for more I’m sorry to be the one to tell you you’re fresh out of luck.

The basic premise of the film follows Ren McCormack, a thick accented high school senior, who moves from Boston, Massachusetts to Bomount, Georgia to live with his aunt and uncle after his mom’s untimely death due to leukemia. That would be an interesting premise but add on the fact that this town has a law against dancing, which in reality might be as bad to dancing as prohibition was to drinking. As you may expect from a movie about a big city kid coming to a small town, Ren tries to get the law abolished, which makes sense, but if the law doesn’t seem to be really enforced, what’s the point?

This remake borrows, if not recreates shot-by-shot, a good chunk of its story from the original; but one welcome change is the addition of a “backstory” to the town’s decision to outlaw dancing. It not only improves the credibility of the premise but also in turn gives all characters a common burden, a reason why they do what do.

This motivation helps the audience get behind some character turns that seemed outlandish in the original film. Dennis Quaid’s turn as Reverend Moore, for example, benefits highly from this, not only is his character given a much needed dose of depth; but his portrayal of the character feels real in a way John Lithgow’s could never dream of being.

My main issue with this film for the most part is the character development, or lack thereof.  Ren is a well developed, fleshed out character but this, combined with Kenny Wormald’s performance, turns into a double-edged sword for the film. It’s especially true when you consider the female lead Ariel Moore, played by Julianne Hough. She’s supposed to be grief stricken over her brother’s death but she takes it to such extremes that left me baffled. Hell the first time we have a chance to get to know her, the scene depicts her sneaking off to an amateur racetrack, stealing a checkered flag, making out with one of the drivers and proceeding to get in his car and having him drive around with her sitting on the window. I don’t know about you but when a lead gets off on such a wrong foot it’s hard for me to root for a romantic connection.

Then we have stereotypical character portrayals, the film’s set in Georgia, and yet of the main cast of character only one of them is black. You might say this is done out of respect to the original film, where it made sense since the story was set in the Midwest, but the extent they take it to is ridiculous. A similar problem arises with Ariel’s boyfriend Chuck, the guy’s practically something out of an after school special on ignorance and redneckerry. When I was sitting in the theater I just thought the dialogue that they gave these characters borders on the cartoonish and I was just left wondering, “who wrote this?”

Near the end of the movie I was ready to write this movie off, give it 1.5 stars but then the final dance sequence came on. And it made me realize that I might be expecting too much from his movie. This isn’t some Oscar-worthy character piece, it’s a film about dancing and as far as that goes I think with a bus race, various musical numbers and jokes, I don’t know of a person who will feel they squandered money on this ticket.

Rating: 3/5 "If you're into that sort of thing"