Cut Loose, by Jack Fleischer
Is this Footloose better than the ’84 version? Since I’ve never seen the original version with Kevin Bacon, I can’t say if this remake will satisfy fans of the original. I can say that Footloose 2011 is both insubstantial and mostly absurd.
Our story opens with a credit sequence that promises lots and lots of dance. The original Kenny Loggins theme plays over close-ups of assorted feet – cutting loose – and kicking around plastic cups filled with liquid that I can only assume is booze. The title credits end and a bunch of kids get into a car and drive through the night while texting and otherwise fooling around. Along comes a truck and they turn into a cartoonish fireball of toaster teens.
The answer to this tragedy? Ban dancing. It’s a little more nuanced than that, they also add a curfew and a noise ordinance, but I’m left wondering what MADD would say about this.
But, let’s ignore this for a moment and follow the argument that since this is dance movie, people will be watching this film for the dancing. Hell, our leads, Kenny Wormald (You Got Served, “Dancelife”) and Julianne Hough (“Dancing with the Stars”), are both renowned dancers. So this film must have some amazing dance sequences, right?
Shelve those Capezios.
I’m not an expert on dance or dance cinematography, but as a casual observer I feel the dance scenes here leave much to be desired. I saw a lot of sex faces and upper torsos bobbing, but not a lot of bodies and feet. I never felt like I got a sense of scope or movement inherent in a really great dance scene. Then there’s Hough, arguably one of the more famous dancers in the world right now, who seems to spend more time watching others dance than actually dancing herself. Dance just doesn’t feel like it’s the focus here. The dancing you do see is great, but it’s not substantial.
Respectively, Wormald and Hough play leads “Ren” and “Ariel.” In real life Wormald is a dancer from Boston, and here he plays a dancing gymnast from Boston. He also wears the hair and wardrobe of “Kenickie” from Grease (RIP Jeff Conway), and is not unlikable. Hough on the other hand is a ballroom champ who is playing Lindsay Lohan from 6 years ago. She is stunningly beautiful, and for large parts of the movie comes off as unlikeable, which is odd considering she has a misguided father, a dead brother, and gets beaten by her scummy boyfriend. Both actors are great dancers, and neither is as notable as Miles Teller playing the goofy teen sidekick “Willard”, or Ray McKinnon as “Uncle Wes.”
The acting highlight is Dennis Quaid who plays the story’s moral antagonist Rev. Moore. In his tearful introductory monologue he absolutely reeled me in. But then there’s Andie MacDowell, playing Rev. Moore’s wife, who completely disappears on screen. I don’t mean that MacDowell disappears into the role, I mean she just disappears. I’m not certain if this was due to the script, the director, or her acting choices, but I don’t know why she was there. She added nothing.
Ultimately I kept coming to one conclusion: this movie makes no sense.
For starters, there’s a decent amount of underage drinking in it. I say this as a former underage drinker, a former Boston bartender and bouncer, and as a proponent of lowering the drinking age to 18. I was also ecstatic when the Massachusetts law banning booze sales on Sunday was abolished just a few years back. Oddly enough, the screenwriter uses the lack of beer sales on Sunday to illustrate to Boston born Ren just how backward this tiny Georgia town is. But that’s picky shit.
I mention the drinking because it’s indicative of a larger problem with the movie, it seems very aware that it is a movie, and all logic is tossed. It’s hard to root for a film where the kids are drunken assholes, and the parents don’t seem to care about that.
The first absurdity is that these parents ban dancing in response to a clear case of drunken driving. Then there’s a scene where young drunks have a fiery bus crash for fun. Earlier in the film Ren gets a traffic ticket for loud music, but when two huge school busses crash and erupt in flames, not even the fire department shows up. Topping it off is a scene where four underage drinkers go into a mainstream big city bar, drink beer, and eventually one of them smashes a beer bottle across a guys face, an event that is immediately shrugged off and forgotten.
I don’t think drinking should be excluded from the film. I also don’t think that kids will watch this film and become drunks. I do think this movie unironically revels in irresponsible and absurd two dimensional movie tropes, which make it unintentionally hilarious. This movie made me laugh out loud for all the wrong reasons.
Footloose misses the boat on what it could have been. The tag line is, “This is our time,” but instead of being contemporary, it shoehorns an old concept into the present day. Within the last year alone issues of economic and racial inequality, teen pregnancy, gay rights, and even (yes) drunk driving, have popped up as national news at high school proms across the country. With a little thought, they could have made a great dance movie that actually involved something relevant to “our time.” Instead of making something notable, they’ve re-produced a soundtrack album I already bought 25 years ago.