Gotta Cut (Foot)loose: Remake Stays A Little Too True to the Original

By Kelsey Lubetich ’12, Staff Writer

Paramount Pictures released Footloose in theaters earlier this year. The film, a remake of a 1984 version, centers on a small town, Bomont, which gets turned upside down with the arrival of rebellious city boy Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald, played by Kevin Bacon in the original). A law banning Bomont’s minors from dancing in public, put in place after a group of high school seniors died coming back from a dance, stands out among the many antiquated laws with which Ren takes issue. One of the central authority figures in the movie is the preacher (Dennis Quaid), whose rebellious daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough, played by Lori Singer in the original) is Ren’s love interest.

The classic ‘80s movie wasn’t exactly screaming for a remake. Sure, Kevin Bacon mildly creeps me out (and I can’t buy him as sexy Ren). And sure, the fact that the film was made in the ‘80s means that the costumes and hairstyles now seem ridiculous, and the dancing outdated. But its being outdated is no reason to remake a movie. Regardless, remake it Paramount did, giving us a Footloose for 2011.

Or rather, they gave us another Footloose for 1984 in 2011. Instead of an updated storyline—with perhaps a new take on the issues facing a small town in the new millennium—or updated dialogue, or less ‘80s-style dancing, Paramount released the exact same film. (To be fair, there were different costumes and a little rap music thrown into the mix. And Ren is no longer the un-sexy Kevin Bacon.)

It’s like the producers watched the original film and loved it so much that they decided to make a shot-by-shot remake. I watched the original the night before I saw the new version. Sitting in the theater the next night, I was shocked by how much was exactly the same. It’s great that they stayed true to the film’s roots, but when the film opens with the exact same shots of dancing feet (albeit without leg warmers this time), uses exact same lines and keeps the original songs in the original scenes throughout the movie, that’s a little too much “re-“ and not enough “-make” in this “remake.”

Decisions to stay true to the original went so far as to become ridiculous. Ariel, for instance, wears basically the same prom dress in the remake as in the original. That dress was ugly even for the ‘80s, but it’s even worse in 2011. The most noticeable difference was that Ren and Ariel’s boyfriend Chuck Cranston now race school buses instead of tractors (right, because school bus drag races are so 2011).

Not everything about this remake was frustratingly ridiculous, though. The lack of changes in the new film also meant that some of the best parts were retained. Ren’s best friend in Bomont, Willard, remains absolutely adorable with his country accent and his inability to dance well. There are still those great scenes with Ren attempting to teach the rhythm-less Willard how to dance.

I think the problem with this remake is that the producers assumed that today’s teenagers hadn’t seen the original. They assumed that we wouldn’t notice the fact that we were watching exactly the same movie that the now middle-aged teenagers of the ‘80s had already watched. Maybe they thought the nods to the original film were subtle rather than the shot-for-shot recreations that they were.

Regardless of what the producers were thinking, watching both versions of Footloose means seeing the same exact movie twice. You really don’t need to watch both. If you haven’t seen the original, I would recommend the 2011 take because it is slightly less corny than the 1984 version. If you have seen the original, watch it again rather than watching its anachronistic remake.

Whichever Footloose you end up watching, I can promise you two things: that you’ll get the title song stuck in your head by the end of the film, and that you will at some point want to get up out of your seat and dance.