IAR Screens 'Footloose'

Thursday, 15 September 2011 17:21 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Screens 'Footloose'

Hollywood’s tendency to produce remakes of their own classic films is nothing new, but recently we’ve seen Tinseltown begin to tap into the back-catalog of terrific movies that were produced in the ‘1980s. It began with remakes of classic horror films from the era like Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and it continued this past summer with Fright Night, not to mention the upcoming remake of Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking The Evil Dead. But the trend has also spilled over into other genres as we saw with last year’s knockout hit The Karate Kid. And you can expect more ‘80s remakes in the near future with films like Red Dawn, Highlander, and Escape From New York on the horizon, as well as the recently announced Dirty Dancing remake from director Kenny Ortega. But one ‘80s remake that has already caused a lot of controversy among fans is Footloose, which opens in theaters on October 14th.

A few months back, I was invited to attend an exclusive advanced screening of the film at the Paramount lot on behalf of IAR. I have to say that I was completely blown away by how much I enjoyed the film and I really think it is an extremely impressive piece of filmmaking. The original Footloose is of course the movie that first launched Kevin Bacon’s illustrious career and many fans thought it was blasphemy to recast the role and remake the film, but director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) really made it work by updating the story while staying true to what everyone loves about the original. He also had the difficult job of casting a new actor to play the iconic role of Ren McCormack and Brewer really hit the jackpot when he found newcomer Kenny Wormald, who truly gives a star-making performance. I can assure fans of the original that this movie is one of the most faithful, loving remakes ever made, and incorporates much of the classic music that you remember from its predecessor.

To be completely honest, I was never really that big a fan of the 1984 film and always thought that the premise was a bit lame. I was about eight or nine years old when it first came out and even at that age I remember thinking that the premise of a small town outlawing dancing in the early ‘80s seemed dated even then. So what is really remarkable about the new version is that Brewer managed to make it actually believable that this could happen to a small town in 2011. I won’t give away how he does this, but it is very clear from the opening sequence that this movie is based in reality. What you also take away from the opening scene is that Brewer LOVES Footloose and understood that he couldn’t replace it but instead wanted to make a movie that would update the story and stay true to the original. The idea that a filmmaker would open a movie in 2011 with a twenty-five year old Kenny Loggins song is risky to say the least, but it absolutely works within the world that Brewer has created. In fact, all of your favorite songs from the original film are organically included (one way or another) in this version such as “Almost Paradise,” “Let’s hear it for the Boy,” and “Holding Out for a Hero.” To be honest, it’s the music that I remember best from the original anyways.

The movie tells the same basic story as the first one; a street-smart city kid moves to an old-fashioned uptight southern town and rebels against their laws forbidding dancing and rock music. In addition to updating why the town has banned kids from dancing, (it’s not just because they are religious fanatic), Brewer has made some small changes to the story such as setting it in Tennessee rather than Utah, and Ren hailing from Boston instead of Chicago. But other than that, the movie retains the same fun tone and mood as the original. Another thing I loved about the movie is that all the major set pieces you remember from its predecessor are still there like the “angry dance” and the Prom sequence. In fact, Brewer found away to incorporate many of the costumes from the first film, while updating them in away that is believable for 2011 including Ren’s trademark blue jeans and white T-shirt, and the purple tuxedo he wears to the dance at the end of the movie. Even the haircut Wormald is sporting will remind you of the original but at the same time feels authentic and not like a cheap rip-off.

The cast all fulfill their roles well including Dennis Quaid (The Rookie) as the misguided Rev. Shaw Moore and Andie MacDowell (Hudson Hawk) as his understanding wife. Julianne Hough (Burlesque) plays Ren’s love interest Ariel and the actress shows a lot of range in the role. She’s sexy and sassy but at the same time posses a very vulnerable quality. However, it’s Kenny Wormald’s performance as Ren McCormack that really makes the film work. There is no doubt in my mind that just like Kevin Bacon before him, this role will undoubtedly make him into a household name. Wormald exudes a confidence and ease on screen that is reminiscent of Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Not only is the dancer-turned-actor more than capable in the performance sequences, he really holds his own in the dramatic scenes and gives a funny, touching and moving performance. Kudos to Brewer for more than pulling off what many fans thought was impossible. This is truly one of the best remakes to come along in a long time. Clearly Brewer is a BIG fan of the original, as his Footloose is a loving tribute to the ’80s classic. If you are a true fan of the first movie than you are really going to adore this version of Footloose, which updates the story but retains everything you loved about the original. If you’ve never seen the 1984 version, or did not care for it, do yourself a favor and give the new Footloose a chance because it is a fun, smart, and completely charming movie.

To read my conversation with director Craig Brewer about the making of Footloose, please click here

Everybody will cut Footloose beginning in theaters on October 14th. 

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