A funny thing about nostalgia, we tend to (deliberately) forget that our memories are lying to us. Things weren’t as good as our brains have remixed them into. It’s probably a evolution, survival thing. So in anticipation of seeing the release remix/rebirth of ‘Footloose’, I dug out the original.
My memories have being lying to me for years.
Don’t get me wrong, as a teenager of the 80s, I grew up on a diet of ‘Footloose’, ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘Flashdance’ etc and loved them all. But the original ‘Footloose’ is a very flawed movie. Great, but it felt unfinished, flat characters and many unresolved elements. As if it’s a sketch, a rough plan of what could be. ‘Footloose’ 2011 is the wonderfully finished complete painting.
Literally four beats into the opening titles, with the original title music blasting out to a new selection of dancing shoes, I was a kid again, grinning away & wanting to get up and dance. I loved it! In the way we have forgotten to love things openly, unreservedly just like when we were kids.
Opening with people out having an amazing time, at a party you really want to just step into the screen and be part of. Then it brutally changes. For the first we get to experience why the town folk saw fit to ban dancing and music in the town. And in a tragic way, it all seems to make sense. They mean well, but moments of high emotion are probably not the best time to be making laws.
Like the best PIXAR movies, this works on quite a few levels. There is the obvious great music (most of the original sound track, ‘refreshed’), fantastic dancing, excellent cinematography and developing romance between characters. But it doesn’t pull punches on bigger issues such as the introduction of the draconian Patriot Act, or the need to separate the Church from State Politics. Very brave topics to speak openly of in such a mainstream movie.
Ren (brilliantly played by relative newcomer, destined to be very familiar Kenny Wormald) has the looks, uniform and swagger of James Dean, but because of his life experience, this rebel knows exactly want he wants.
That may all sound quite heavy, but the movie is incredibly funny. The sequence where Willard (Miles Teller uncannily resembling the originals Chris Penn) is learning to dance is worth the price of admission alone, or his lines such at the car wash ‘If we can’t have bra-less wet t-shirt women in town, the Terrorists have won’ almost steal every scene he’s in. The cast clearly had a great time making this movie.
And what a cast. Some of my favourite character actors from the genius that was ‘Deadwood’ Ray McKinnon & Kim Dickens to more recognisable faces in Andie MacDowell & preacher Dennis Quaid. But the new faces really step up to hold their own amongst the seasoned actors. Julianne Hough is mesmerisingly beautiful as the preachers wayward daughter. A very troubled teen, but this time we understand why she’s behaving this way.
There are loads of loving references to the original movie, a few much needed touch ups and some inspired changes. You don’t have to have seen the original, if you have, I do recommend watching it again before seeing this version just to see how much better they have made it.
There’s a lot of great ‘cool’ movies out of late, but hands down this is the most honestly entertaining movie I’ve seen all year. I loved it as much as director Craig Brewer clearly loved the original.
Footloose is released in the UK on October 14th.