Film review: FOOTLOOSE from Built for Speed

With its remake of 80’s teen flick Footloose, Hollywood continues to plunder the riches of Gen X nostalgia and Gen Y’s love of ironic retro cool.  The original 1984 film launched Kevin Bacon to stardom as a romantic lead only to see him subsequently playing sleazeballs and paedophiles.

Careful not to tinker with a previously successful formula, the filmmakers have created a virtual scene for scene remake of the original.  The only variations from the 1984 model are a few iPods and computers, more African Americans in the cast and some crumping and stripper dancing (note these are supposed to be high school kids). Many of the songs from the original, including covers of beardy Kenny Loggins’ title theme and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding out for a hero” are still there although there is some more contemporary stuff like Jack White.

Kenny Wormald who looks disturbingly like some mad scientist’s hybrid of a young Johnny Depp and Jason Priestley plays alleged teen rebel Ren McCormack who, following his Mother’s death, moves from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont.  There, he’s horrified to discover that public dancing has been banned because the lascivious moves corrupt the young and apparently cause fatal car crashes like the one that rocked the community three years earlier. Ren tries to educate the hicks with his Yankee sensibilities and have the town’s surrogate leader Rev Dennis Quaid repeal the no dancing law.  Being such an outrageous heretic as well as a coiffured Yankee pretty boy Ren of course becomes the target for the local unkempt rednecks.

This film should prove reasonably popular with nostalgic middle-aged types and young audiences but won’t become the pop-cultural touchstone the original was. This is partly due to the fact that it has the reheated left over feel typical of remakes.  The main problem though is the mediocre performances of its leads.  The Wormster is ok as Ren but just doesn’t have the charisma and energy of Mr Bacon.  He’s required to carry the film’s dramatic weight but his luke-warm presence causes the film to lose its grip on the audience as soon as the dancing stops.  While the cast of young unknowns is generally fine if not riveting, the old pros Dennis Quaid and wife Andie McDowell are strangely stiff and unconvincing.

While the film is largely fuelled by the energy of teen rebellion, this is really an old fashioned story, the sort in which Pat Boon or Ricky Nelson would have starred in the 50’s.  The film is oddly topical, though, being set in a Christian community who have responded to a tragedy by legislating to curb personal freedoms.  Of course the post-911 parallels are coincidence but in the 27 years since the original came out, its themes have remained relevant.

This is ok dorky fun with some energetic dancing but hardly a must see.


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