Directed by Craig Brewer
Written by Dean Pitchford and Craig Brewer
Why, yes, TarsTarkas.NET did get into another free screening, thanks for asking. Footloose is the first screening where we were given instructions that we were required to mention we went for free. As that’s part of the running joke about how TarsTarkas.NET sold out, that isn’t a problem. So are we still sold out? Read on, dear readers…
Standing in line waiting to get into the theater to see Footloose, something happened. My foot began to be loose! Was that budding excitement for going to see the movie? Nope, just a shoelace that came undone. In addition, the official Paramount film crew was there to tape people for commercials, causing us to feign excitement that we’re waiting to see Footloose. We were convincing enough the operator only had to redo filming several times!
Finally, we were let into the theater. Did you know that giving away free stuff is the most effective way to sway opinion to your side? And that food is the most effectively used free stuff? In totally unrelated news, there was a bunch of free swag on our chairs! We got a cup, a bag of candy, and an issue of Footloose Magazine! Finally, something to put next to my issues of Highlights and Tiger Beat! As for the candy, my wife got Smarties and a Butterfinger, and I got some weird colored circle disks. Lame. Strike 1, Footloose! I just stole another candy bag from one of the many empty seats, and got my Butterfinger. There was also a dance contest where they filmed a few people dancing to put up on the official Footloose website so you could vote for a winner to go to the premier in LA. The movie stars were supposed to be there as a surprise, but they were stuck in Phoenix due to plane delays. Strike 2, Footloose! Below I’ve put a photo of all the swag:
None of this could possibly influence me. Mostly because it wasn’t enough of a bribe! If I’m selling out, I’m going to demand top dollar! TWO Butterfingers!
“This movie is about being a little punk rock and bucking the system” says a designer in the free Footloose Magazine handed out right next to their $149.99 designer shoes from the Footloose movie.
The Footloose remake follows the original film closely. Very closely. So closely it eliminates one of the reasons to remake a film: to give a different take on the story. The names are the same, the plot is the same, the events that happen are the same, many of the clothes are the same (yes, ladies, they kept the red boots!) The opening sequence with the feet is the same, at least three of the songs are the same (probably more, I forgot to take count!) Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) even filmed a speech before the film saying how he wanted to respect the original, they got original scribe Dean Pitchford to help write this new version, and the Footloose magazine is filled with people talking about the original film along with the new. I think the fear of being too different may have stifled their creativity, while remaining true to the original probably helped more than it hurt. It is a weird dichotomy that we’ll try to break down more below.
There are a few differences. Ren is more angsty, his mom is dead now (from cancer), the setting is now the deep south and you know it. The tractor race is dumped in place of a school bus roller derby race. Yes. That’s where the buses explode.
But forget all that, what people want to know is, is Footloose 2011 any good? And my answer is: sort of. There are a lot of problems, but it isn’t horrific. It’s perfectly adequate. I can see young kids today liking it just as much as we did as kids. But in a world of High School Musicals and Glee, I’m not seeing this resonate with the same music vibe.
Let’s meet the cast, then jump into the story
Besides them we meet such wonderful characters as Ren’s uncle Wes Warnicker (Ray McKinnon), aunt (Kim Dickens) and Ariel’s jerk racecar driving boyfriend, Chuck (Patrick John Flueger), and the various minor characters who give life to the small town.
For those of you under 30 who never saw the original (which would be every person under 30 I’ve talked to recently!) or are curious of this identical remake’s story, the plot is as follows:
Big city kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town to live with his uncle and aunt, and learns the hard way that public dancing and playing loud music is illegal. Ren must deal with being constantly teased by the locals and losing the one way he expresses himself, through dance. Ren catches the eye of the Reverend’s daughter Ariel, though she has a jerk boyfriend and acts out in rebellion to her strict parents. Ren ends up defeating jerk boyfriend Chuck in a bus demolition derby race, and starts a petition to overthrow the dancing band. Reverend Moore spearheaded putting the bans in place after a tragedy in the town that costs lives, and is the main driving force for keeping the ban in place. The plot follows the original so closely that to reveal that they end up having a dance at the nearby town after the ban repeal fails is no spoiler. Everyone dances, their feet are loose, and the Reverend realizes he can’t be babysitter for the entire town. All in all, it’s a movie about fighting for your freedom to be free.
But I bet his feet are loose now…
Part of the main problem with this Footloose is how uncommitted it is. At first it’s trying to be modern day relevant, but Ren is dressed like 1950s James Dean, drives a VW Beetle (most associated with the 60s and 70s), and some of the country-western flair screams the 90s. The dancing scenes themselves can’t decide if they’re going to be country or rock and roll, and instead become an inconsistent mishmash of whatever fits for the particular scene, but not the film as a whole. As they’re appearing to try to go for the widest possible audience, the dance sequences being different tones each time probably completes a checklist given. Sure, not everyone dances to the same types of songs, but this was rather obvious. We have the hip hop dance in the parking lot, the freestyle dance in the abandoned factory, country line-dancing, and the prom breakdance freakdown. The inconsistent period and tone do more harm than good. Of course, the same could be said about the original.
At times, the Ariel character seems too broken to be likeable. She’s obviously dating a jerk and ruining her life just to counter her father. Alienating her friends, wearing skimpy clothes, being rude. She’s lost, and even Ren isn’t going to step in and save her, she has to do some of the work herself. The last half of the film help redeem Ariel, though in the oversimplified world of Footloose she’s immediately fixed and fine with her father with no lasting resentment or other issues.
One could easily draw a conclusion that this is an allegory for post 9-11 America. After a huge trauma (terrorist attack), a bunch of rash laws are past that prohibit freedom (PATRIOT Act), and bunch of people talk about God (Dubya), these new laws suck and people revolt (electing Obama), but that does nothing so everyone has their party over the border (moving to Canada). So according to Footloose, I should move to Canada. Screw that noise! Was born here and will die here. I’ll go down with this ship, ever fighting on to keep her afloat.
But there are probably a million conclusions you can draw on the basic plot elements. It’s Choose-Your-Own-Allegory! Sometimes things aren’t meant to be over-analyzed. Just remember, it’s hard to think with the Footloose song stuck in your head. As the original soundtrack is awesome, if we get more Footloose songs on the radio, this movie will be a success. And if more buses explode in remakes of classic 80s movies, then Footloose is a success.
And now that the review is over, I can actually eat the candy without feeling biased, except….
You don’t know what he used the cup to drink! No candy for me…
Rated 6/10 (aunt, restaurant music dealer, team captain, dead mom, giant jerk, Chuck)
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