Once upon a time, residents in Elmore City, Oklahoma were not allowed to dance. That became the basis of the 1984 "Footloose" movie written by Dean Pitchford and directed by Herbert Ross.
Twenty seven years later, writer-director Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow," "Black Snake Moan") decided to take on the dubious task of remaking the iconic movie. Everyone doubted Brewer, including me. But I entered the theater a skeptic and walked out a believer.
Let's be honest here. The original "Footloose" was not necessarily a cinematic masterpiece. Most of the characters were treated as caricatures, and the film lacked motivation. The soundtrack headlined by Kenny Loggins was far more memorable than the movie itself.
But Brewer did something short of miraculous. He made improvements to the storyline while being respectful of the original. The result is a film that is more of an homage than a remake. And dare I say it, the 2011 version is much better and more realized.
All the unforgettable elements we fell in love with in the original are all in the new version. Ren McCormack, now played by newcomer Kenny Wormald, drives a yellow Volkswagen bug, there's an iconic pair of red cowboy boots, and all the famous songs were retrofitted for today's pop culture landscape.
The main differences between the two versions are the setting and Kenny's origin. The 1984 film was set in the fictional town of Bomont, Utah and Kenny came from Chicago. Now, our hero is from Boston and the town that bans dancing is Bomont, Georgia.
Much like Kevin Bacon before him, Wormald is largely an unknown except for a few acting credits under his belt. Most of his past roles have required him to play a dancer, which makes Wormald perfect for the character of the young man who just wants to dance.
Armed with a 50s teenager's rebellious spirit and sporting an 80s-inspired pair of Ray Bans, Wormald is game to step into the iconic character. Bacon became a big star when "Footloose" opened, only time will tell if Wormald will have the same fate. This I can tell you though, the boy can dance!
Dennis Quaid inherits the Reverend Shaw Moore character from John Lithgow. Suddenly, we can understand the role of the man of God who spearheads the dancing ban in his town. Lithgow is a great actor but this one-dimensional character was not ably fleshed out in the original.
The latest version helps us understand the Reverend's motivation, heck, we can even feel his pain. His son died in a car crash three years ago after a night of drinking and gasp, dancing! Moore's level-headed wife is played by Andie MacDowell while Dianne Wiest starred in the original.
But the biggest revelation for me is Julianne Hough of the "Dancing with the Stars" fame. This girl can act! She stars as Ariel Moore, the rebellious preacher's daughter who falls in love with Ren. There's a dramatic confrontational church scene between the Reverend and his daughter and Hough did not allow Quaid to upstage her in the acting department.
Heading the supporting cast are two great character actors who have bright futures ahead of them. There's Ziah Colon as Ariel's friend previously played by Sarah Jessica Parker. My favorite is Miles Teller as Willard, Ren's friend who can't dance, originally played by Chris Penn.
As soon as you hear the famous thumping beats of the title song, you will be drawn into the movie. And the choreography by Jamal Sims is also commendable. I grew up in the 80s where dance was taught as a form of rebellion, at least at the movies. From "Flashdance" to "Dirty Dancing" to "Footloose," dance became a metaphor for freedom.
In the "Footloose" world, dance can also be used to express anger. Yes folks, the warehouse scene where Bacon danced in the original is all in tact in the latest version. Only this time, Ren is listening to his iPod. The song remains the same but the beat is louder and is sung more passionately.
"Footloose" version 2011 is a must see and is such a quicker picker-upper of a movie that you will sing and dance all the way home. Trust me when I say, it's almost paradise.
RATING: "FOOTLOOSE" GETS 3 KISSES