‘Footloose’: Sorry, but remake has two left feet

I have long thought that the music was the best part of 1984’s Footloose. Who can forget Kenny Loggins’ toe-tapping, finger-snapping title-track hit song and Deniece Williams’ boogie-worthy Let’s Hear It for the Boy?

The 2011 version of Footloose can’t even lay claim to any songs that will forever remain in the minds of movie fans. Those two tracks, plus Holding Out for a Hero and Almost Paradise, are simply re-recorded by different artists in the new film.

I thought the premise (a conservative town outlaws dancing, new kid comes in and shakes things up) was unbelievable even for the 1980s. Guess what? It’s still flimsy at best today.

Directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), Footloose feels a lot like one of those Step Up dance movies. I like to think of this Footloose as urban dancing in the country, while Step Up is urban dancing in the city. On the positive side, if Kenny Ortega had stayed on as director (reports say he left because of creative differences), I probably would be saying the movie felt a lot like High School Musical, and that’s not a good thing.

For those who don’t know the story, Ren MacCormack (played by newcomer Kenny Wormald) is the big-city Boston kid who comes to live with family in small-town Bomont, Ga., after the untimely passing of his mother.

He immediately sets his sights on the preacher’s daughter, Ariel Moore (Julianne Hough of Dancing With the Stars fame). Ariel is what folks back in the day referred to as “fast”; she has a bad-boy boyfriend who is basically using her for one thing.

Leaders in the town, including Ariel’s dad, the Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), have banned all sorts of typical teenage activities (staying out late, drinking and dancing), spurred by the death of some students after a party.

When Ren arrives in town, he fights to lift the ban on dancing and win Ariel’s heart in the process.

The movie excels during the dance scenes, which are upbeat, and, dare I say, even a bit exciting. Since Wormald and Hough are professional dancers, I’d expect nothing less. One of the most fun scenes (a carryover from 1984) is when Ren teaches his friend Willard (Chris Penn from 1984, Miles Teller in the remake) how to dance.

However, the dramatic scenes felt like they should have been on a soap opera on daytime television. I’m not sure if it was the newbie actors to blame or bad writing, but this area definitely needed more attention.

Neither the 28-year-old Wormald nor the 24-year-old Hough looked like teenagers, but that’s almost come to be expected since high school movies rarely seem to feature actual high school students. Still, I found it slightly annoying.

Older movies often are “re-imagined” with bits and pieces of the original interspersed with new elements. There’s no re-imagining going on with Footloose; it’s the almost the exact same movie, just set in 2011 with different actors.

Footloose is one of those quintessential ’80s flicks that Gen X and Y’ers identify with as part of their youth. It’s a movie that probably should have remained a distant memory. ••

Movie Grade: C