At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Footloose “2011”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Footloose “2011”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Musical Drama/ Stars: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Miles Teller, Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid, Ser’Darius Blain, Ziah Colon, Patrick John Flueger, Ray McKinnon, Kim Dickens, Mary-Charles Jones, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, Josh Warren/Runtime: 113 minutes

A kinda sorta wise individual by the name of Ben Franklin once said that those who are willing to give up those liberties that are essential even if it’s to acquire a degree of safety however much of a temporary fix it may be don’t deserve to have either liberty or safety…..or something to that effect. The reason I bring this up is because the 2011 take on Footloose is one that champions the idea of personal freedoms and bemoans opposing those even if that opposition is packaged as a crusade to “keep the children safe”. Indeed this film is one that also holds high the ideals of liberty, controlling one’s self, and determination over a law that, despite maybe being passed for a reason that is understandable, is still one that puts down quite unnecessarily. Thus this take on Footloose also is a representation of a dialogue between measures meant to thwart future calamity before it occurs and the power of letting people make their own choices and take responsibility for their own actions. Yes the film’s core narrative of calling to task a law outlawing dancing in the wake of a horrific calamity is one that will definitely give you something to seriously ponder over. To that end, it is also worth noting that this film has quite a bit in common with its predecessor from the 1980s, a film that is also seen as one that defines the decade in which it came out. Thus with the narrative and what is trying to be conveyed to audiences fairly similar, I do feel the question should be asked: is there really any reason to pick this one over what came before? Honestly you might be surprised to learn that whilst I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the original I did enjoy this one a fair bit as well. No it’s not as musically-inclined as the original, but as a drama this is honestly one remake that is both fairly well done and fairly respectful to what came before.

The plot is as follows: Footloose takes us to a tiny little community in the state of Georgia by the name of Bomont that has here recently been stricken by a horrific tragedy. A tragedy that takes the shape and form of a quintet of teens, among them the town reverend’s son, are killed in a horrific car calamity in the aftermath of a wild and rowdy night of dancing and drinking. So it is the aftermath of this incident that the town reverend makes the case to the town elders to enact a measure that will make it illegal for the town’s young people to engage in dancing of any sort. Three years later the town is still trying to heal when along comes a young man by the name of Ren MacCormack to shake things up. Ren we soon learn is a young man from Boston who is coming to stay with his aunt and uncle in the aftermath of the demise of his mom and his father leaving him high and dry. Yet Ren is not only suffering from some degree of culture surprise, but is just plain astonished to learn that dancing is outlawed since he loves to dance quite a lot. To that end, we see that it isn’t long before our intrepid hero makes friends with a local boy by the name of Willard and also attracted to a beautiful girl named Ariel…..who also happens to be the daughter of the Reverend. It also should come as no surprise to learn that Ren makes quite the swift impact on Bomont courtesy of being arrested for violating the dancing law and his attempts to go against the norm have him seen as kind of a pariah with not just the majority of the town, but also with the Reverend as well. Thus can our hero redeem himself in the town’s eyes, and get them to see that maybe just maybe dancing is not the say all end all evil that they have come to think that it is?

Now more than anything, the 2011 take on Footloose is one that showcases the teenage desire to be free to make their own choices is one that is utterly timeless. Indeed this new take on the iconic movie from the 80s is one that promotes a lot of similar values in quite a few ways that are also equally as similar. To be sure if you’ve seen the original then from a base point of view you also have seen this one since there is nothing novel here from a thematic perspective, the cast of characters all act by and large the same, and the ending is also fairly the same as well. Suffice it to say 1984’s Footloose was not really in need of being remade, but alas here we are and honestly it’s not as bad as it could have been. No this 2011 take on the story is not as musically-driven as the original, but this one does operate with just as much heart and more believable take on the same narrative. Yes it also may not have the degree of playfulness the original possessed in waves, but it is able to weave both the themes and the characters in the narrative a bit more complex. Ultimately, this one feels just as thorough if not slightly more so than the original, is more in synch with its narrative, and is less musical and more drama than the original film. Thus, I really do feel that you, the movie goer’s level of both enjoying this film and also accepting it will be a matter of personal choice. By that I mean there will be those who just want to toss this movie in the trash as soon as they look at it, and then there will be others, like myself, who might just be willing to give this dance a chance.

Now when looking at this film in view of its technical ingredients, this is one slice of cinematic pie that is the recipient of a pair of dynamic lead performances and top-notch filmmaking that both aid the narrative and further showcase it more so as dramatic fare rather than as a straight up musical like the original was in many aspects. Indeed film helmer Craig Brewer does fairly well at respecting what came before whilst at the same time molding this film into its own thing. This includes his delicate and well-done handling of the beginning of the film that goes from lively and energetic to just straight up heart-wrenching in mere minutes with a wonderful degree of care which gives the moviegoer the chance to witness not only the tragedy itself, but also be placed in the point of view of the town and their knee-jerk reaction to the elements that preluded this horrific accident. To be sure, Brewer’s helmsmanship and narrative regaling are just as potent as they help the audience if nothing else comprehend just why these things have been banished and/or restricted even if doing so forms the crux of the movie’s conflict. We also see that the film helmer is just as cautious in not making the typically nonviolent protest against the ban both the norm and the resolution that the audience must side with even if that is the point of view the narrative pushes more so. Indeed both sides of this argument are actually fairly well-spoken and whilst it isn’t that much of a surprise in regards to how things will wrap up, the odyssey to that resolution is still fairly thought-provoking for both the characters and the movie goer who has chosen to sit down and give their story a watch.

With that being said, not everything is hunky dory with this particular film. Indeed there are some performances which aren’t entirely on the up and up though not for lack of effort. On the positive side, I will say that Dennis Quaid is fantastic as Reverend Moore who comes to discover his crust externally isn’t as strong as he thinks it is and what he feels on the inside isn’t entirely in synch with his sermons or his position on the town council. Yes he does hold steadfast to the main spiritual beliefs that he speaks on, but there is still a steady stream of uncertainty within him in regards to the ordinances he helped pass even when he is chastising his daughter or Ren and trying to keep those same ordinances on their proverbial pedestal. Suffice it to say then that it is not only one heck of a performance, but very much on the same level as the one given by John Lithgow in the 1984 original. We also see Kenny Wormald show that he is someone to keep an eye on in a lead role that looks more like James Franco than Kevin Bacon save for their shared values a certain article of clothing both wear near the end of the film. Beyond that though, Wormald does a wonderful job at making the role his own thing and does a wonderful job at updating it for “present day” movie goers. With those out of the way though, the rest of the cast (save for perhaps Miles Teller) are rather run of the mill in the worst way possible. It should also be said at this time that the actual dancing in this film is not the best in the world, but honestly that’s ok for a couple of reasons. Those being that they, with the exception of Ren, aren’t that skilled at it and that because these are people who live in the country rather than the big city they aren’t as familiar with “what’s hip”. Finally, this movie is guilty of one major offense and that is that it completely and utterly annihilates the iconic theme song from the first one in such a way that it will make fans of the original slightly revolted to say the least. In all fairness though and by and large there is quite a bit that is good about this movie rather than a little bit that’s mehhh and that’s all you can truly hope for when dusting off an iconic film and giving it a fresh spin.

All in all I might be hard to surprise, but I am always grateful when it happens. The reason I bring that up dear reader is because the 2011 take on the iconic 80s property Footloose is an astonishingly well-done remake that checks all the right boxes and hit all the right dance moves (pun intended). Yes the new take on Kenny Loggins’ iconic theme song is, for all intents and purposes, a sour note, but the majority of the other elements in this one are actually fairly well done. No this one is not always as whimsical or even as fun as the original, but it does work quite well a fairly riveting Drama that is going to really make both parties that exist in the debate about personal liberties question their position a fair bit. Thus when you also factor in some truly wonderful performances as well as some top notch work at the helm, you get a slice of cinematic pie that is just as much on the level as the iconic original from 1984. Let’s hear it for the boy indeed! On a scale of 1-5 I give Footloose “2011” a solid 3.5 out of 5.