Surprisingly faithful to the plot of its original 1984 incarnation, this ridiculously earnest remake is set in the present (look, there’s an iPod!) but plays like a badly dated period piece. It also makes the huge mistake of taking seriously a story and characters that are so preposterous the movie should have been played as a campy comedy.
After his single mom dies, mopey teen Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves from Boston to the backward rural burg of Bomont, Georgia. Loud music and public dancing have been outlawed there for three years, ever since a carload of high-schoolers died in a wreck on their way home from a party. One of the victims was the son of conservative Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid, who seems to be impersonating a folksy but less fatuous George W Bush). Like all preachers’ daughters, his only remaining offspring Ariel (Julianne Hough) is a self-destructive slut with an abusive jerk for a boyfriend.
Dancing is so much a part of rebel Ren’s DNA that he breaks into an elaborately improvised Flashdance routine in an abandoned factory as a form of frustration-relieving physical therapy — after talking to himself doesn’t do the trick. Ariel witnesses this terpsichorean display and tries hooking up with the high-energy hoofer, but Ren refuses even to kiss her until it would “mean something.” Get a clue, girlfriend!
Actually, Ren’s reluctance is not due to a sexual-preference mismatch, which would have been kind of entertaining. He’s just one of those mythical adolescent males who apparently is into self-denial, celibacy and something called respect.
The vacuous Ariel is the kind of shallow, “G”-droppin’ Southern dumb-belle who lets her jealous car-racin’ boyfriend get away with backhandin’ her in the face and splittin’ her lip without callin’ the cops on him. Hough is so uninterestingly bland in the role that Ariel comes off like a boringly vanilla housewife even when she’s doing a dirty-dancing grind in a tight pair of Daisy Dukes.
Ren’s best friend is Willard (Miles Teller), an asexual doofus with a thing for Ariel’s sassy sidekick Rusty Rodriguez (Ziah Colon). Because Willard can’t dance, we are subjected to a painful “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” montage of him learning how to cut loose.
A tractor race in the original has been transformed into a schoolbus race here between Ren and Ariel’s redneck beau Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger). The scene makes no sense and its outcome is ridiculous. Ditto a last-act punch-up between Ren and Chuck, which is as unnecessary as it is unlikely.
The family-drama angle of the movie is such a bore it may antagonize audiences more interested in choreography than corn. Also, anyone who regards country-style line dancing as an ungainly offense to nature will want to look away for extended periods when boots start to scoot.
It’s hard to believe that Craig Brewer, who wrote and directed 2006’s transgressively tongue-in-cheek Black Snake Moan, directed and co-wrote this stale lump of flavorless reprocessed cheese.
[Rating: 1 star]
Footloose gets it’s theatrical release date on Friday, October 14, 2011