Footloose (2011) Review

Directed By: Craig Brewer
Written By: Craig Brewer & Dean Pitchford
Produced By: Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Dylan Sellers, Brad Weston
Music By: Deborah Lurie
Edited By: Billy Fox

Distributed By: Paramount Pictures, MTV Films
Runtime: 113 minutes
Budget: $24 million

Footloose (1984) : 9/10
Footloose (2011) : 7.5/10

I will start out by saying that I was initially a little queasy at the idea of re-doing Footloose. The 1984 movie is a classic in my opinion. The main question I had was “What are they really going to say that has not been said?”

Interestingly enough, that question is answered in the first five minutes of the new film. In the original film, you never saw the car crash. The opening sequence in the first movie is actually a series of dancing shoes. The Kenny Loggins’ theme song plays in the background. The Kenny Loggins song still play in the new version. However, the song ends with a horrific car crash that takes the lives of five teenagers. Right there, your eyes perk up and know that you are in for a slightly different film experience.

The next part that will strike you about the new movie is the added multiculturalism of the cast. In some movies, varying the race of the characters works and in some movies it quite frankly does not. I have many questions regarding the Clash of the Titans remake. One of the foremost questions was the decision to change Pegasus from a white horse to a black horse. The updated Karate Kid movie would have been a fine movie if they just put a different name on the movie. However, in Footloose, the new sense of multiculturalism actually works. It is simply an acknowledging the times. As a matter of fact, it is quite a step of progress that there is never really a mention that the all white Bomont High from the first movie is now inter-racial.

The movie is actually a mostly faithful retelling. Ren still drives around in a 1970’s yellow beetle. I actually love the way in which the Volkswagon is introduced into the plot. The pencil thin tie is still there. A majority of the actors do a serviceable to exemplary job in their roles. Every major scene from the first movie in one fashion or another is in the new movie. If you loved the original Footloose, they did not exactly re-invent the wheel. This makes for a comfortable watching experience. I rather recommend it at home over the theaters so that you can get up and dance during the scenes.

Some of the changes (and after all isn’t that one of the reasons why we have remakes) I had a problem with. Some of the changes I did not have a problem with. Initially, I did not know how to react to Ren’s mother having died of cancer. Throughout the course of the movie, Ren draws on the strength of the experience. My two favorite ‘added’ scenes are actually the car crash as well as Ren talking to Reverend Moore about the mutual loss in their lives. Shaw Moore has lost his son. Ren has lost his mother. This actually puts the characters on equal footing. Ren’s aunt fills in during the famous scene in which Ren discusses why he is pushing so hard for the dance.

There are a few parts of the original that I miss as well. I miss the book burning scene where Shaw Moore realizes that maybe he has taken the town too far. I also miss Ren telling Ariel that he may ‘suffer by comparison’ if he kisses her. These are not major points, but they are ones that endeared me to the first film.

My major level of discomfort with the new film was the age of the ‘Chuck’ character. I understand that they wanted to mix things up by turning the tractor chicken match into a school bus race. The ‘Chuck’ character, however, is a man in his twenties if not his early thirties. Maybe it is the fact that I am now watching this movie with my teenage daughter, but I felt like the introduction of statutory rape and maybe even outright pedophilia was a wrong way to go with the film. Overall, the film is a feel good teenage morality play. The creepiness of this relationship as well as the horror of Chuck smacking Ariel really gets off into themes that may not have been apropos to the topics at hand. When Chuck was Ariel’s age or still a teenager, it could all be seen in context. But every time a potential child predator steps on the screen, it may very well make your skin crawl.

The other main reason why you will watch a Footloose movie is the music. I am old. I will admit that. The music works best when they stuck to the original soundtrack. I loved the working of Lets Hear It For the Boy on the little Barbie radio. Willard is a delight in any movie. I do miss the late great Chris Penn, but Miles Taylor is a delightful engaging fill in. I will say that Holding Out For A Hero was the worst remake of that song I have ever heard. I have always been bothered by the changing of the original lyric from “Great White Hercules” to “streetwise Hercules.” The remake of the song for Shrek 2 was at least fun and bouncy. The version played in this movie was, outside of the lyrics, not even the same song. It does not work…at all.

I will admit to being a fan of Andie McDowell in general and felt like she stepped into Diane Weist’s shoes wonderfully. The emotional center of the film is the transformation of Shaw Moore. John Lithgow’s performance was defining as well as nuanced in the 1984 original. That being said, Dennis Quaid is a marvelous replacement. I felt for Moore in a way that I did not in the first film. Maybe, that means that I now identify with the adults in the movie whereas I used to identify with the teenagers. Quaid just has a manner of conveying emotion that is deep without over stating the emotions that he is portraying. He can say more with biting his lip than most actors can say with a soliloquy. You can see Shaw Moore’s world coming apart. You can see him dealing with his family as well as professional and community obligations. While everyone else in the movie is off doing basically what they want, Shaw has to be an adult. He wants to scream. He loses control. He wants to make things better. Its an emotional journey you can take with Moore and that is largely thanks to Dennis Quaid.

The important thing about the 2011 version of Footloose is at the end, everyone got up and danced. That is the point of the movie. We danced till the neighbors downstairs hit their roof to tell us to stop dancing. Parts felt a little forced. In this movie, you wonder how the easy going Willard ever got a pugilistic attitude. Some things are unforced. In this movie, Ren’s uncle Wesley is an advocate for him rather than joining in with the rest of the town. Some of the scenes painstakingly recreated for this film did not seem like they belonged there. In the first movie, the end fight scene with Chuck feels like watching Rocky or The Karate Kid. In this movie, you actually want the cops to show up and stop this terrorizing criminal. Ultimately, a shot of Chuck in jail at the end would have been very satisfying.
Overall, watch the new Footloose. Watch the new Footloose with your kids. The message is timeless and resonates almost just as well.

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4 thoughts on “Footloose (2011) Review

  1. Great review. But, the remake of Holding Out For a Hero is wonderful. I do agree the placement was a bit odd. In the screening we saw in July, that track was played during the traincar scene, and worked so much better. Of course having Craig introduce the movie and explain why he did it may have had an impact on my love of his film. And we had a theater full of folks dancing in the aisles, just sayin’.

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