FILM REVIEW: Footloose

7 Oct

GRADE: A-

BOTTOM LINE: Surprisingly good acting, writing, dancing, and music — pure fun all around.

Let me just insert a disclaimer here before I launch into my review: Footloose is not my kind of film. Sure, I had my High School Musical phase like everyone else, but I’ve long since gotten over frivolous feel-good films.

That said, Craig Brewer’s remake of Footloose is, to quote another classic 80s musical, electrifying. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the cheesy trailer is an accurate representation of the film, because Footloose isn’t Step Up or Honey or some other atrocious excuse for a movie about dancing. Think of it as another Hairspray — it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also has a genuine heart and soul that it never abandons.

Footloose takes place in Bomont, a small Southern town caught in the iron moral grip of Rev. Moore (Dennis Quaid). Three years ago, he encouraged town officials to impose a public curfew and laws against dancing, partying, and loud music after a combination of the aforementioned factors led to a fatal car crash that took the lives of his son and four other teens. Flash forward to the present, when Boston-raised Ren McCormick (Kenny Wormald) moves to Bomont to stay with his aunt and uncle after his mother’s death. Shocked by the town’s strict rules, he vows to turn things around and sets out to petition for a high school prom. Unfortunately, this seemingly straightforward task becomes impossibly difficult when he falls for the rebellious preacher’s daughter Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough), incurring the wrath of not only her controlling father but her aggressive boyfriend (Patrick John Flueger) and his friends as well.

People will make the mistake of criticising this film because of its unlikely, mushy premise, but that really isn’t a fair way to approach it. Keep in mind that nothing could be done about the premise — that had to be there to call this film a remake. Instead, the filmmakers built upon the shaky foundation they had to work with and transformed a beloved story into something exciting and new that’s still true to the original. For the effort alone, they deserve an A+.

Even when broken down into its individual elements Footloose scores pretty high across the board. The acting was probably the biggest surprise for me. Newcomer Wormald is great, pulling off the big-city, tough-guy image perfectly. I can see why the part was originally offered to Zac Efron, but Wormald brings a less polished-around-the-edges feel to the character that, I think, ultimately made him the better choice. Hough was also unexpected. Even though Ariel is absolutely infuriating, Hough oozes energy and sex appeal; even when she’s not gyrating against a boy, she holds her own as an actress. And Miles Tellar, who plays Ren’s goofy best friend Willar, is a surprise standout — expect to root for his character more than anyone else in the film.

The writing isn’t bad for the genre. I expected a slew of cheesy lines and gag-inducing scenes, but there were some genuinely moving moments in there. One scene towards the end between Ariel and her father feels particularly realistic, and I think every teen in the audience could put themselves in her shoes at that moment.

But of course Footloose is about the dancing, and it more than delivers on that front. The movie shines brightest in the vibrant, spontaneous dance sequences, which are exceptionally choreographed and beautifully directed. The dancers pull off every slick move effortlessly, making the movie sexy and fun even for people who aren’t into the country line dancing thing. Be prepared to walk out of the theatre yearning to go to a bar and dance your ass off to Blake Shelton’s cover of “Footloose.”

While most people will still write Footloose off as a shallow, cheesy remake of a classic, it genuinely has the fire and stamina to stand on its own two feet. Like Hairspray, it’s an undeniably cool teen movie that people of all ages will enjoy.

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