October 17, 2011


Coming soon: The Dukes of Hazzard 2

Grade: B -
Director: Craig Brewer
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell and Miles Teller
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

The opening moments of Craig Brewer’s Footloose gives something old and something new. It begins with a static close-up of sneakers stomping on a beer-smeared dance floor strewn with crushed Dixie cups, gettin’ footloose to the familiar strains of Kenny Loggins’ smash title track. The nostalgic mood is abruptly interrupted, however, when a carload of teenagers leaving the dance party are killed in a head-on collision.

In response, the city council of sleepy Bomont, Ga., led by Presbyterian minister Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), whose son was killed in the crash, passes a series of ordinances intended to prevent the teen revelry town elders blame for the tragedy. Restrictions include a curfew and prohibitions against loud music, public alcohol consumption and, most of all, lewd and lascivious dancing.

Brewer (Hustle & Flow; Black Snake Moan) places his affinity for Southern settings front and center. He transplants the original film’s fictional Utah locale to a Georgia burg perched, like so many cities in the Deep South, on transcending its traditional race, class and religious divisions.

The impetus for Bomont, GA’s prohibitions are more believable than the sheer fundamentalist bent at the heart of the 1984 film. And, while Brewer goes to great lengths to incorporate the original soundtrack throughout - sometimes in their original form, sometimes rerecorded with new artists - he also mixes in a contemporary blend of country, rock and hip-hop, backed by performers ranging from Blake Shelton to Smashing Pumpkins to Wiz Khalifa. The hoofing itself now runs the gambit from parking lot krumping to country line. Even the memorable tractor battle is changed to a school bus demolition derby.

Still, despite this tinkering around the edges as well as Brewer’s distinctive gritty palette, Footloose’s basic plot remains otherwise unchanged and just as hokey. Boston boy Ren McCormick (Kenny Wormald) moves to town sporting shades, a 21 Jump Street hairdo and a big-city attitude. Trouble comes his way after he plays his music too loud and, more precariously, dances too close with Ariel (Julianne Hough), the preacher’s flamboyant daughter who fancies halter tops and red cowboy boots.

It falls to this rebel without to rumba to woo Ariel, beat back her roughneck boyfriend and try to convince the council to rescind its bans via a speech that finds Ren quoting Psalms and Ecclesiastes. As in his previous features, Brewer’s characters often veer into caricature, especially Ren’s new friend Willard (Miles Teller) and the rest of the hayseeds in Bomont, a place where folks still work at the cotton gin and call each other “darlin.” And, for all the director’s heightened attention to verisimilitude, the town is some alternate Southern universe where there is no hint of racial tension.

Wormald and Hough make an alluring pair, and while their acting won’t wow audiences, their energetic bump-and-grinding will titillate viewers of both sexes. Is it all corny? Yes, but Brewer makes it OK for everybody to cut Footloose...just fight that feeling of deja vu.

Neil Morris

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