Blu-ray: Footloose

  Remakes and updates abounded in 2011, but the decision by Paramount to green light a new version of Footloose was met with mixed reactions, as it’s a film that some claim is an American classic. One of those movies that inspired a generation, the original film launched the career of Kevin Bacon and helped establish Kenny Loggins’ reputation as the 1980s King of Soundtracks. Even today, who doesn’t hear the opening bars of the title track without immediately getting into the party spirit?

What most people fail to remember about the 1984 film, though, is that it was only so-so, mainly a vehicle for the soundtrack that went on to spawn a number of hits. Despite a few iconic scenes, the movie was basically cinematic fluff to pass the time before The Karate Kid came out later that year.

The 2011 Footloose is in almost every way a better movie than the original. Writer/director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) took on the task of modernizing the tale of a small town that blamed dancing and modern music for the crash that took the lives of five teenagers years earlier.

This time around, the leads are played by newcomer Kenny Wormald (as Ren) and a made-under Julianne Hough (playing the reverend’s daughter, Ariel). Wormald is perfectly cast as the big-city boy with a chip on his shoulder, while Hough portrays the rebellious teen with a much softer edge than Lori Singer did in the original.

For those few who never saw the original (or don’t recall the movie), the story goes like this: a few years back, at a post-game party, teens got drunk, drove home and were killed in a car wreck, prompting the town elders to set forth a regulation prohibiting public dancing and loud music. Three years later, Ren comes to live with his aunt and uncle after his mother passes away and falls for the reverend’s daughter (whose brother was killed in the aforementioned crash). Rebellion ensues as the kids try to have a prom with dancing and the town shuts them down.

Dennis Quaid is great as Reverend Shaw Moore, and Andie MacDowell oozes Southern charm as his loyal wife. Also turning great performances are Ray McKinnon and Kim Dickens (Uncle Wes and Aunt Lulu) and Ziah Colon as Ariel’s best bud Rusty.

There are a few changes from the original storyline, most obviously the location changes. Bomont is now located in Texas instead of Utah, and the bad-boy Ren now hails from Boston rather than Chicago, probably because Wormald’s native Boston accent is such a great counterpoint to the Texas twang of his best bud Willard (a scene-stealing Miles Teller). This cast also includes more characters of ethnicity (which is to say there actually are some).

A big fan of the original film, Brewer tries to keep as much continuity as possible between the two films while still filming a modern movie. Sticking so close to the first version should have made this Footloose just as mediocre of a movie as Bacon’s version, but Brewer is somehow able to wring more personality and presence from one scene than much of that first effort contained in its entirety. This Footloose feels like less of a remake, and more of a “how it should have been made.”

If there is anywhere the remake falls short, it’s the music. While a variety of genres are represented on the soundtrack (from Quiet Riot to Cee Lo Green), there is a decidedly country-music spin on the majority of the tracks. This isn’t what makes it less appealing than the Kenny Loggins-led songs, however—that fault lies mostly with the fact that the songs themselves feel outdated. In a film about dancing and the power of music, that seems to be a big miss.

The director’s commentary track on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack (Paramount Home Media Distribution, MSRP: $44.99) goes into much more detail about what influenced Brewer’s directorial decisions, and reveals that he was very much in-the-know about how deeply reviled he was for even taking on such a project. However, hearing him talk about making this version should leave little doubt that he wanted to do the story justice.

“Jump Back: Re-imagining Footloose” goes into detail about what Brewer decided to change and what bits he felt were essential to keep in order to honor the source material (Ariel’s red boots and Ren’s Volkswagen are just two examples, as well as the clever recreation of the dancing-feet opener).

The Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack also features five deleted scenes, one of which— “Reverend Shaw’s Speech”—does a lot to give the older folks’ perspective. Viewers can also watch the scenes with optional commentary by Brewer.

Two mini-documentary features are devoted to the film’s stars. “Everybody Cut: The Stars of Footloose” gives viewers more background about the main characters, as well as the largely unknown cast, while “Dancing with the Footloose Stars” showcases the dance moves and training of said cast.

The two-disc Combo Pack also includes three full-length music videos: Big & Rich’s rowdy party song “Fake ID,” Blake Shelton’s take on “Footloose” and the moody Ella Mae Bowen version of “Holding Out for a Hero.”

The most fun of the special features, “Footloose Rap,” features YouTube sensation Emily Whitcomb and her original rap that perfectly summarizes the storyline from the point of view of Ariel. Whitcomb joined the cast at a screening of the film in Minneapolis and was asked to “remake” her performance in front of the crowd, with Brewer, Wormald and Hough as backup. The result is kitchy and fun.

The DVD that comes with the Combo Pack only holds the movie and an Ultraviolet digital copy. The single-disc DVD release (MSRP: $29.99), however, comes with the director’s commentary track, three deleted scenes and the “Fake ID” music video, along with an Ultraviolet digital copy.

then and now are still pretty much popcorn movies: lightweight entertainment that won’t change the world, but will certainly inspire viewers to jump off the couch and dance. Fans of “Dancing with the Stars’” Hough, though, won’t be disappointed in her acting chops, and a whole new generation should now be inspired by phrase “Everybody cut….”

Footloose is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Published on LifeInLA.com

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