This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 9th October 2011
For the older audience, this is a fearfully anticipated remake. For the youth of today, it’s another teenage dance movie. Unfortunately, it doesn’t impress as either.
Though not quite a shot-for-shot rip-off like Van Sant’s Psycho, this classic 80s story of an outsider who rallies to change the law against dancing in a small American town nonetheless chews out the same script, co-written by the original writer Dean Pitchford, whose plentiful reuse of the exact same lines renders him deserving of only a rewrite fee (“Jump back!”). There is theft aplenty, from Ariel’s red cowboy boots and pink prom dress, to Ren’s Beetle and a simply horrible cover of “I Need A Hero”.
Updated slightly with iPods instead of Walkmen, and a more multiracial community, Footloose is still stuck in the past. One wonders whether any audience outside of the southern states will suspend their disbelief that a town could outlaw dancing in this day and age. Somehow it worked for Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer, whose acting (despite the even then improbable narrative) was serious and believable. Here, Kenny Wormald (sporting Chuck Taylors and RayBans) and helium-voiced Julianne Hough lack chemistry or chutzpah in their fight against authority (personified by her preacher father, Dennis Quaid). The face of Andie MacDowell, the mercifully silent mother, belies the fact that she clearly isn’t worth it. By far the best performance is from Willard (Miles Teller from Rabbit Hole), who learns his dance moves from Ren’s tween cousins (no chance of a Kevin Bacon-Chris Penn bromance in this 2011 rendition) and steals the show in the final reel.
We’re supposed to root for the romance and the abolition of stupid, knee-jerk laws. But we don’t, and compared with far superior dance movies such as the cliched Step Up series, the boogie in Bomont is uninspiring. It doesn’t bode well for the new Dirty Dancing.