Sunday, October 23, 2011

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Footloose (2011)

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Hey, no fooling, this is quite a good movie! It's not anything heavy, it will unlikely be an all-time classic, but it's fun and accomplishes that rare remake feat of paying tribute to and respecting the original work while distinguishing itself and even improving in some areas in a way that doesn't come off heavy handed. The primary strength of Footloose v2.0 is that Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough as Ren and Ariel have enough swagger and charisma to light up a small city (if technology allowed such a thing). Their chemistry is great; it may even surpass that of Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer from the original. I'd definitely argue that Hough tops Singer on her own as Ariel, approaching the character and her inner turmoil with superior ease, making the 2011 incarnation more believable and multi-dimensional than her 1984 counterpart. It's not really fair to stack Wormald against Bacon in one of the latter's signature roles, but the newcomer does fine in just about every respect (his angry dance, while technically excellent, falls short of the original, but that's near cinematic perfection), bringing where needed an even rougher edge to Ren that brings him into the 21st century nicely. It is a little tougher, admittedly, to accept the whole "kids died in a car accident clearly because of alcohol so we're going to ban dancing" premise without the benefit of being able to wave it off as 80's foolishness, and attempts to justify it don't hold up too well, but they make up for that by including scenes to flesh out the characters and their relationships I wish were in the original, most notably the pre-prom pow wow between Ren and Reverend Moore. Unfortunately, the one performer I'd say fell a bit flat was Dennis Quaid as Moore; John Lithgow was one of the pillars of the first film, bringing an ambiguity and conflict to Moore that Quaid can't seem to latch onto, instead just settling into brow-furrowed concern and disapproval. The rest of the supporting cast is top notch though, from Miles Teller admirably filling the late Chris Penn's comic relief shoes as Willard to Ray McKinnon stepping up as Ren's uncle in a role greatly expanded from the original to provide a father figure who fits in nicely. Indeed this movie seemed to excel at knowing when to follow its predecessor line-for-line, when to veer off to the extreme, and when to toss a wink but then still do something different; kudos to Craig Brewerfor treading that line. One more weakness I'd chalk up would be that pretty much every cover of a song from the original was inferior, but Wormald, Hough and company make up for that by bringing the intensity when it's time to dance. I'd be curious how somebody who has never seen the first Footloose would come to this movie, as I clearly spent a lot of time comparing the two, but obviously I dug it.