Goofy can be an art form, and silliness is sometimes a lubricant that can grease the squeaky wheels of joyful entertainment. Sadly, writer/director Craig Brewer’s remake of Footloose isn’t just goofy or silly; it’s also stupid…like, really stupid. Sure, no copies of the original film are stored in the Louvre, but that flick had some bizarre natural charisma that made it endearing. This version is 100% juju-free, wallowing instead in laugh-out-loud melodrama and rampant moron-itude.
Cinema’s inexplicable icon Kevin Bacon is replaced here by the flexible Kenny Wormald, who looks like a smilier and significantly less-stoned James Franco. Wormald plays Ren MacCormack, the most innocuous rebellious bad boy to ever sport a popped jean jacket collar. Ren MacCormack, who is always referred to by both his first and last name as though there is another “Ren” he may be confused with, is forced to move from Boston, Mass to Bomont, Georgia after the death of his mother. Beyond an increased respect for pronouncing the letter “R,” Bomont also differs from Boston in a major way: public dancing was outlawed in the rural community three years ago after a car accident killed five teenagers.
Skipping quickly beyond whatever crackerjack logic linked rhythmic movement to vehicular homicide, the film introduces Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough) as a reluctantly whorish preacher’s daughter. She’s been shacking up with race car driver Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger), who is one handlebar mustache twirl away from complete villain caricature. Ren MacCormack, with his boogie-woogie prowess and 1950s fashion sense, inevitably woos Ariel, much to the chagrin of her dance-banning pappy, Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid). It all leads to a climactic showdown that involves bible-quoting at a city council meeting, which is every bit as unthrilling as it sounds.
It’s the little things that ruin Footloose. Okay, it’s also the big things, but the little things are really irritating. Stifling giggles when Ren MacCormack dances out his anger in an abandoned warehouse takes massive intestinal fortitude. Extra bonus points if you’re also able to endure the morally repugnant and exceptionally lame moment when the Reverend backhands his daughter, who had been crying in his church because her boyfriend had also just backhanded her.
The finest actors of this or any generation would struggle with moments like that or dialogue that starts “Dancing is a right.” And no one is going to argue that Wormald or Hough, both of whose IMDB.com pages feature the word “dancer” more than anything else, are up to this or any thespian challenge. What’s odd is that there’s almost not enough dancing. The acting-free, bump-and-grind segments are the best things in the film.
Brewer is a talented cat, having burst on the scene with Hustle and Flow and the massively underrated Black Snake Moan. There are faint hints of the themes that excite him, things like the link between racial identity and music and the transformative power of sexuality. But those elements are buried beneath a mountain of insufferable, unoriginal manure. Modern culture would have survived without the original Footloose; here’s hoping it survives the remake.
Grade = D