The 2011 version of Footloose is a great example of how a remake can improve upon the original. In nearly every single way, the new Footloose outshines the beloved 1984 original. Whereas the earlier film has become a quaintly nostalgic time-capsule piece, the remake bristles with fresh energy and appropriate tweaks that make the concept slightly more believable. Sure, Kevin Bacon made an indelible impression in the original, launching an enduring career. Kenny Wormald, stepping into lead role of Ren McCormack, had big shoes to fill and doesn’t have the Bacon’s charisma. But it was unlikely that lightning would strike twice in finding a future star to play the character. Besides, Wormald actually turns in a pretty strong performance in his own right.
Footloose follows the arrival of city boy Ren McCormack in the small hick town of Bomont, Georgia. Ren, with his Boston accent and smart ass attitude, immediately makes an impression at his new high school. He quickly discovers just how repressed the town is after receiving a ticket for “disturbing the peace” simply for playing his car stereo too loud. Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) holds the conservative town in his Bible-thumping grip. Three years before Ren’s arrival, a drunken party led to an automobile accident that claimed the lives of Shaw’s son and four other students. Shaw’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) lives in the shadow of her brother’s memory, acting out her grief in ever-increasing reckless behavior. Shaw and his cronies managed to pass a law banning dancing for all minors in Bomont, hoping the outlawing of such activities will prevent further tragedy.
Meanwhile, the kids of Bomont still find ways to dance, whether it’s at the local drive-in when no lawmen are in sight or by leaving city limits to visit a honky-tonk. Ren gets ambitious and decides to petition the town to lift the dance ban. All of this should sound familiar to anyone who has seen the 1984 version. There are no real surprises in the retelling of the story. Quaid is far warmer in the role of Reverend Moore than John Lithgow’s original conception. Miles Teller is funny and likeable as Willard, the role first played by the late Chris Penn. Wormald, being a professional dancer, brings an authentic physicality to his portrayal of McCormack. The biggest upgrade in the case is Hough, who is so much sexier than the original Ariel, Lori Singer. I must admit, I caught myself drooling a few times watching her dance. But more than that, Hough is far more realistic in her depiction of Ariel’s emotional turmoil than Singer ever was.
Fans of the original should be pleased with the ways in which writer-director Craig Brewer remained faithful to the first film. In fact, the new version ultimately hews so closely that original screenwriter Dean Pitchford is co-credited here. The megahit soundtrack is recreated, with updated versions of the iconic tunes that helped make the original so popular. This is not a musical, it should be pointed out. Although Footloose was previously turned into a Broadway musical, the new film – like the old one – is a drama peppered with dance sequences that are naturally incorporated into the plot. Though the Kenny Loggins original opens the movie, country superstar Blake Shelton re-recorded the title tune. Bonnie Tyler’s strident “Holding Out for a Hero” is recast as a pensive ballad by Ella Mae Bowen.
Footloose looks superb in its 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer, framed at 2.35:1. With a reported budget of $24 million, this was a rather modestly budgeted film. With no action set-pieces or exotic scenery to speak of, the visual highlight is the dancing – which is presented in impressive clarity. Fine detail is similarly strong, capturing ever line or freckle on an actor’s face. Colors are bold and realistic. The whole presentation has a pleasingly film-like look to it. The picture is uniformly well-defined under any lighting situation, though most of the movie has a warm, yellowish glow to it during daytime scenes.
The Blu-ray also delivers in a big way from an audio standpoint, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that cranks out full-bodied music. The songs are very important to this film, so it’s good that the LFE channel cranks out a nice bottom end while the treble is crisp and natural. Immersive surround effects are prominent during the handful of action-oriented segments, such as a school bus race that involves some nasty crashes. Dialogue presents no issues at all, clear and centered at all times. All in all, this is a great sounding track that deserves to be played loud.
Supplemental features are decent without being all that spectacular. Director Craig Brewer contributes an interesting commentary track that outlines what changes were made – and what was kept the same – when remaking the movie. The featurettes are too self-congratulatory and larded with “I can’t believe we’re actually remaking Footloose” reverence. But for fans of the film, they are worth a look. “Re-imagining Footloose,” “The Stars of Footloose,” and “Dancing with the Footloose Stars” add up to about 40 minutes of interview clips and behind-the-scenes tidbits. A handful of deleted scenes, totaling about seven minutes, are mostly forgettable – though one bit that follows up on the city council vote regarding the dance ban is pretty interesting. A few music videos can be found as well, including Blake Shelton’s title track cover.