What has triggered this harsh assessment, you ask? The final straw is Craig Brewer’s lifeless version of the crowd-pleasing 1984 hit that had everyone cutting loose. Footloose had a strong cast (Kevin Bacon, a few degrees before ubiquity, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow, Christopher Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker), a soundtrack that mixed Pop Rock (the Kenny Loggins title track and “Holding Out For a Hero” from Bonnie Tyler) with R&B (the smash “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” from Deniece Williams) and just enough rebelliousness to spark kids to a cause without giving parents pause.
It wasn’t great cinema, but it was fun.
So why, if we have access to the movie and the music, do we need to see new pretty faces (is Kenny Wormald going to replace Bacon as the new link in the Hollywood firmament) and hear a safer, countrified take on the Loggins classic (like Blake Shelton could ever get loose and rock the house or shake the barn down like that)? Why can’t kids today, like my teenage daughter and her friends, just watch the original, just like they watch Miracle on 34th Street, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music? Why can’t someone just find a way to tell some new stories?
And why would a director like Brewer sign up for a gig like this? Whether you liked Hustle & Flow or Black Snake Moan or not, you have to admit the guy had a handle on sweaty Southern sensuality and the grit that rubbed raw and wrong. There was a sensibility willing to mash-up issues of race and class, gender dynamics and the blues with a surprising lack of subtlety that felt refreshing. But here Brewer has seemingly buffed and smoothed over his jagged edges, prettifying the ugly pit and back stains that funked up his joints. He has advocated for his version of the movie, promoting the heightened sexual nature of teens and the few new tunes in the mix, but these efforts, as seen and heard, fail to generate his usual dank and musty atmospherics.
The lone curious standout would be the presence of Dennis Quaid who, in his own way, has become another of those overly familiar hooks in the movies. From playing Jerry Lee Lewis to preaching about the ills of dancing in the streets, Quaid rarely settles for the same 4/4 beat. He finds a way to insert an extra beat per measure to shake and shuffle things around. And in this new and completely unnecessary Footloose redo, even he claps and stutters off-rhythm, but he does so with a twinkle in his eye, signaling to us that he’s dancing to the beat of his own (and likely infinitely funkier) drummer. Grade: D+
Opens Oct. 14. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.