They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case you’d do better not to judge a film by its subject. Dancing has had a poor showing in cinemas over the past few years, becoming synonymous with OTT smile-fests like the High School Musical films or even *shudder* Glee 3D.
Thankfully Footloose, a remake of the 1984 classic, manages to avoid this pitfalls to deliver an effective and entertaining slice of boogieing.
The story focuses on Ren McCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald), a teenager from Boston who is thrown into a quiet, small-town existence where public dancing and rock music have been banned.
The film throws your footing almost immediately at the opening with a shocking and unexpected jolt of juxtaposition, immediately making it clear this isn’t a film just about dancing.
Wormald easily convinces as the slightly cocky but charismatic city-boy, and gives the audience someone to root for. The rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Love interest Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough) manages to tiptoe around the soppiness bear trap (just), with only a stray line which remains a bit on the cheddar side. Generic bully/boyfriend Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger) delivers his character with all the subtlety of a punch in the face – which, incidentally, comes up literally more than you might expect – but effectively nails the obvious stereotype nonetheless.
Dennis Quaid, as probably the only easily recognisable face, seems troubled as preacher-man Reverend Moore, finding it hard to get the balance between the reserved man of the cloth and one who is forced to deal with the horrific concept of losing his son, who died in a car accident three years earlier after attending a public gathering, which let to the Reverend and the town council banning public dancing altogether.
Andie MacDowell, the Reverend’s wife Vi, falls short the most tellingly though, in a less compelling showing than her oft-seen face cream adverts.
Luckily Miles Teller is on hand as redneck dance-o-phobe Willard to give some much-needed comic relief, and is graced with the most memorable lines and moments in the film, such as being taught to dance by eight-year-old girls accompanied by a Barbie jukebox.
Dancing does, of course, still feature heavily through the film, embracing a number of different styles, and fits in more naturally than something like a musical where characters would undoubtedly burst into it every other scene.
The choreography of the group numbers is stellar and really has some infectious energy, not least the film’s signature tune – this time around given a slightly more country and upbeat feel compared to the original.
Comparisons to the 1984 flick are inevitable and there are differences – the town has moved states and the game of chicken happens on school buses rather than tractors, for example – but really there isn’t anything which seems glaringly out of place. There are some nice nods to the original, such as Wormald donning Kevin Bacon’s signature red tux for the finale, but really this is a film of its own, making a small but clear message of everything in moderation.
In the end the film won’t convert those who can’t stand seeing fresh-faced young teens dance their socks off, but for a film about dancing, you get a fair amount more than just a quick-step.
James Michael Parry