Footloose (2011): Retro Remake by Craig Brewer, Still Best Known for Hustle & Flow

Director Craig Brewer began his career on a high note, with the Sundance Film Fest hit Hustle & Flow, which garnered two Oscar nominations.  He then went through a sophomore jinx with “Black Snake Moan,” which was an artistic and commercial flop.

Our grade: B-

It’s therefore a relief to report that Brewer has made a decent film (but no more) with his remake of the 1984 film, “Footloose,” which, among other things put Kevin Bacon on the map.

Review of Hustle & Flow:

We reviewers often criticize remakes, but in this case, the 1984 picture was not a particularly good one, though it was a commercial success.  In several respects, Brewer’s version is better; it’s more energetic, sassier and, except for the last, draggy reel, more enjoyable.

Yes, like the first picture, this “Footloose” is unabashedly corny and old-fashioned—despite efforts to integrate the new technologies and new media into the narrative; the kids dance to I-Pods (for example).

“Footloose” benefits immensely from the casting of the two leads and the strong chemistry between them. Newcomer Kenny Wormald plays Ren MacCormack, initially a fish out of water, a guy transplanted from the big city of Boston to the small southern town of Bomont, where he experiences culture shock and value collision.

A few years earlier, the community suffered a tragic accident, in which five teenagers were killed after a wild night out. As a result, Bomont’s local councilmen and Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) reacted quickly and rigidly.  They decided to implement ordinances that prohibit loud music and dancing.

Enters Ren, an outsider-rebel, who doesn’t obey rules and doesn’t believe in maintaining the status quo just for the sake of keeping old, “dysfunctional” traditions.

In quick order, Ren not only challenges the absurd ban, but he also revitalizes the place, turning it from a dormant, boring and suffocating small town into a slightly more vibrant and modern one.

That said, as a screen character, Ren adheres to the formulaic structure of such narratives ever since James Dean’s 1955 landmark, “Rebel Without a Cause.”  Ren falls in love.  Guess with whom?  No other than the reverend’s daughter (played by the appealing Julianne Hough).

Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Dylan Sellers and Brad Weston are savvy producers, even when they consciously make such a conventional musical picture as Footloose, a harmless, innocuous fare (they have previously produced the cooler, better musical comedy, “Hairspray.”

Helmer Craig Brewer, credited as co-writer, also knows what he is doing.  Realizing that “Footloose” is not a realistic film—by any standards—he goes all out with the clichés of the genre, without challenging or contesting them.

Unlike the critically-acclaimed “Hustle & Flow,” whose lead character was after all a pimp and the language foul, “Footloose” is squeaky-clean, a film you can see with your parents and grandparents without being embarrassed by the four-letter words in the dialogue, sex and/or nudity, and graphic violence.

Like a time capsule, “Footloose” is tame and safe entertainment, an impersonal movie that lacks distinctive vision or aesthetic, and one that could take place at any geographic place and at any historic time—despite the new technologies on display.