Directed by Craig Brewer
Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Conventional remake wisdom, among film geeks if few studio executives, is that you should redo movies that showed a lot of promise but didn’t quite work or failed outright, not great movies that already worked out fine. The 1980s versions of The Thing and Footloose fall somewhere in between, neither missed opportunities for greatness nor unimpeachable classics; regardless, they count as brand-names despite the existence of more iconic John Carpenter movies or mildly unsuccessful Broadway adaptations and, as such, arrive remade in theaters on the same fall weekend.
A redo of Footloose seems less blasphemous than simply redundant; for years, teen-dance movies have descended (or, depending on your point of view, evolved) from Footloose, and Paramount will be damned if they’re just gonna let other people knock off their movie when they can hire an overqualified director to do it in-house. Craig Brewer has never made a dance movie before, but he has made a couple of music-based pictures that similarly flirt with musical status without full-on commitment: the hip-hop-centric Hustle and Flow and the bluesy Black Snake Moan. His Footloose fits ever squarer into not-quite-musical mode—the dance movie being one of the most commercial subsets of the not-quite-genre—but as far as studio work for hire, it’s not bad.
Usually the justification for this kind of redo is to make a “dated” movie slicker and more today, by which is meant: more like a music video of 2011. But Brewer actually seems interested in making Footloose work in our present, even if its central hook—the town of Bomont has outlawed dancing, and a teenage rebel arrives from a big city to shake things up—remains as cheesy as ever. He recruits actual (twentysomething) dancers Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough to play the leads, a potentially deadly decision that pays reasonable dividends; despite their age and perhaps because of their inexperience, Wormald and Hough feel like real teenagers, not like actors on a CW audition. When the kids, including the delightful Miles Teller as a wiseass semi-redneck and Wormald’s new best friend, take center stage, Brewer’s version of Footloose is a lot of fun: relaxed and warm, with several energetic and well-shot dance sequences. But the movie must address the dance ban framework with impassioned speeches, fathers coming to terms with daughters, and a lot of other stuff more tedious than dancing, even if Brewer does work to make it kinda-sorta make real-world sense. I liked the characters enough to wish that Brewer had forgotten he was doing a remake, and let them come to a less predetermined destination.