Footloose (Paramount Pictures, PG)

I’ve never seen the original Footloose. It was not a film of my childhood, and for whatever reason, I have never gotten around to it. I have no nostalgic love for it, nor do I have any postmodern hatred of it. This makes it easy for me to judge its remake from a completely objective point of view, and I saw a pretty good film.

I know the story of Footloose, which has been retained here. A young man named Ren McCormack moves from the big city to a small town, which has outlawed loud music and dancing. It is an absurd premise, but it is the premise of the movie, and you have to give it to them. No premise is inherently bad. It all depends on what the filmmakers do with it.
Footloose was directed by Craig Brewer, who previously made Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan. He has two major skills, which are evident in all of his films. The first is that he understands how to create a sense of small-town, southern atmosphere. This film was shot on location in Georgia, and you can tell. You can see it in the way people dress, the way people talk, and the way people sweat. Most people don’t think about the atmosphere of a film, but it has such a strong impact, even if it’s just subconscious. Had this been filmed in California, it would have felt wrong, and reeked of Hollywood snobbery. Even when we are asked to see this town as backward and silly, it never feels mean-spirited.

Brewer’s second great strength is that he understands and can communicate the transcendent power of music. His characters use music as a way to escape from their troubles, and even elevate their lives to levels they could never normally reach. Few directors have a greater understanding of how to craft a great musical sequence.

I like dance scenes in movies for the same reason I love action scenes. It is all about how the camera captures movement and the editing creates a rhythm that ends up giving the audience a visceral rush. Nowadays, dance sequences tend to be filmed better than most mainstream action films. It helps when the music is good, and “Footloose” is such an inherently perfect pop song that I couldn’t help but be caught up in the magic of it.

The film is surprisingly funny, thanks mostly to a great cast. Veteran actors like Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell, and Ray McKinnon and Kim Dickens from Deadwood make the most of their underdeveloped roles. The main focus is on the kids, who are all good, especially Miles Teller, who thrives in the role originally played by Chris Penn. Teller is effortlessly funny and charming, easily winning the audience over. He played a much darker role in Rabbit Hole last year. He is going to be a star.

Unfortunately, the dramatic segments of Footloose are less successful. The actors do a fine job, and the film’s heart is in the right place, but there is nothing we haven’t seen before. The film is at its best when it is just trying to be fun. It is fun. During the big climax, members of the audience were clapping and singing a long. I’m sure most of them wanted to get up and dance in the aisles, and I was right there with them. No one needed a remake of Footloose, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film we got. | Sean Lass



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