In 1984, the film Footloose was released to an audience that likely wasn’t aware of the impact it would make on the current younger generation – so much so that the thought of a remake might have been considered out of the question. Twenty-six years later, Footloose is back in theaters with a whole new cast and director, yet with similar heart and message. If anything, expectations for it to be a 2.0-type film, a musical, or a direct copy will thankfully go unsatisfied. Words like “homage” and “tribute”, however, may come to mind more so than any whispers of unoriginality.
Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves to the quiet town of Bomont, Tennessee, to live with his aunt, uncle, and nieces after the passing of his mother. Having moved from Boston, Massachusetts, culture shock ensues as any transition from big city to small town would cause. However, Ren makes an attempt to fit in as a matter of social survival rather than actual desire. In the process – one that involves a couple of unintended run-ins with the local police – he becomes infatuated with the unassumingly rebellious Ariel Shaw (Julianne Hough), the Reverend’s daughter and sister of one of five of the town’s teenagers who perished in a car crash on the way home from a dance three years prior.
Reverend Shaw (Dennis Quaid) is naturally protective of his daughter. Serving as a figure of authority in keeping a public dance ban on the town of Bomont – much to the chagrin of the high school age teenagers – he finds issue with Ren and attempts to keep him from his daughter. Meanwhile, Ren finds a world of issues in living with the restrictions upon the town, which includes a ban on loud music, and to him, any real sense of expression. In making friends, like Willard (Miles Tenner), as well as enemies, like Ariel’s rebellious racecar driver boyfriend, Chuck (Patrick John Flueger), Ren’s permanent stay in Bomont is far from dull, especially as it concerns the idea and execution of petitioning the town council to lift the ban on public dancing.
Whether or not one has seen the original film, it is interesting to be able to see both sides of the coin in what can be considered the typical “parent versus child”, “new generation against old generation”, “old versus young” revolution-type of film. This updated film, however, presents less of a revolution and more or a desire to co-exist as a town, and therefore as families and friends. It’s not clear whether or not the slight changes in Footloose‘s story will flesh out or detract from the experience for those who grew up with or have merely seen the original. But for those coming into the story fresh and with new eyes, the story stands on its own and is seamless in producing an understanding of the as well as incorporating high amounts of levity and energy via many means. Examples include Ren and Willard’s interactions as comrades, the allies Ren finds in the town to support his petition, and of course the lively dancing in various spirited sequences between himself, Ariel, Willard and Rusty (Ziah Colon). One of the roles that hopefully does not go overlooked during this film is Ren’s uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon). While he symbolizes the closeness of the town as far as radius and kinship, he maintains a sensibility that keeps Ren grounded and motivated. Not to mention that the character is funny as all get out, amusing but not over-the-top for the entire length of his screen time.
Remakes rarely, if ever, please everyone, but in the modern take of Footloose there remains a depth of quality that audiences will likely respond positively to – yes, even in a world where a film about murderous mutant machines is playing in the theater next door (in 3-D, no less). At its core is a heartfelt story of unity that transcends generations – the “then” and “now” themselves, perhaps sitting side by side – and it’s definitely not a bad feeling to take home.