Seventeen years after the original "Footloose" inspired audiences around the world to kick off their Sunday shoes, Craig Brewer's "Footloose" remake arrives in theaters this Friday, October 14.
Although Brewer and his filmmaking forebear, Herbert Ross, share an affection for music-driven movies, it remains to be seen whether the director of "Hustle & Flow" and "Black Snake Moan" will go on to Ross's highs of "The Secret of My Success," or the lows of "Undercover Blues."
In the meantime, we took a look at both theatrical versions of this iconic story in order to see what they have in common, and where Brewer might have cut a little bit loose.
The Location: Although both films are set in a town called Bomont, the '84 film takes place in Utah, which actually has a town with that name, while the '11 film relocates the conflict to the South, fabricating a Bomont, Georgia.
The Main Character: In both versions, Ren McCormack is a high school senior who relocates from "the big city" to a small town. Played in '84 by Kevin Bacon and in '11 by Kenny Wormald, Ren is no troublemaker, but nevertheless has trouble adjusting to his new settings, especially after he attracts the attention of a cute classmate named Ariel and her preacher father, who presides over the townspeople like a benevolent dictator. That said, Ren is from Boston in the '11 film instead of Chicago, and arrives in town after the death of his mother, whereas his mom is there with him in the original.
His Love Interest: Ariel (Lori Singer in '84, Julianne Hough in '11) is a small-town girl whose rebellious attitude towards her father hides a deep well of pain over the loss of her older brother, who died a few years before in the accident that inspired Bomont to institute uncompromising rules like no dancing and no loud music. Both young women "aren't even a virgin," and can take a punch as well as they dish it out. And both look pretty terrific in a pair of tight jeans, or an off-the-shoulder, peach-colored prom dress.
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Her Father: Reverend Moore (John Lithgow/Dennis Quaid) is a monolithic minister who does not hold office but nonetheless exerts considerable influence over the townspeople. Like his daughter Ariel, he's driven by the accidental death of his son and, also like her, goes a little overboard when it comes to meting out paternal advice. Although Lithgow's Moore is more hellfire and brimstone than Quaid's self-righteous, folksy alternative, the former actually proved more evenhanded in his depiction of a man living by the Good Book but having to deal with a daughter with common sense.
The Sidekicks: In the '84 film, Chris Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker play Willard and Rusty, a couple of nerdy small-town kids who find their lives changed forever -- and of course for the better -- by Ren's appearance. Played by Miles Teller and Ziah Colon in the remake, the characters are remarkably the same, although Rusty is a stand-in for all of Ariel's friends from the first one, not just one of them. And while she actually resembles Sarah Jessica Parker enough to be a physical stand-in as well, kudos to Brewer and his casting agent for putting a young woman of color in the film, which makes her sweetly innocent romance with Willard interracial.
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The Villain: Chuck Cranston is a little older, and a lot dumber, than most of the crazy kids in this mixed-up world. But he has good looks and the forbidden allure of being older, even if in the new film (as played by John Patrick Flueger) he's more conspicuously grown up (he already graduated and races cars for a living).
The Plot: Exactly like the '84 version, "Footloose" follows the adventures of Ren as he becomes an unlikely rebel against the unreasonably strict rules imposed by the town elders of Bomont. Despite being a gymnast and a good student, he is unfairly vilified after another student plants a joint on him, but he makes an impassioned speech to the town elders at the film's climax in which he insists to them that now "is our time," and therefore they should rescind the rule about public dancing and let the kids shake their butts in a good, upstanding fashion.
The Look: Director Craig Brewer re-creates almost every detail from the original that made it distinctive, from the font used over the opening credits to the provincial but not totally close-minded town where the story is set. While many of the clothes are appropriately updated, there are a handful of nods to the first film, especially when Ren ends up in a wifebeater, boogieing alone in an abandoned warehouse, and when Ariel goes out one night in a very similar dress to the one that her predecessor wore.
The Soundtrack: Although Brewer revives them via cover versions, he includes four of the original songs from the first "Footloose" soundtrack, including the title song "Footloose," "Holding Out for a Hero," "Almost Paradise" and "Let's Hear It For The Boy." (Additionally, both films feature Quiet Riot's "Bang Your Head," although it doesn't appear on the soundtrack to the '11 version.) Overall, the aesthetic of the soundtrack for the '84 version is a little bit more honkytonk pop than pure country, which is more in the wheelhouse of the '11 soundtrack, but they're similar enough that one doesn't betray the other. (That said, the absence of "Dancing in the Sheets" from the new film is a serious pockmark on its otherwise fairly solid record, no pun intended.)
The Cutting Loose, Footloose: Both films feature a lot of dancing, but what's most surprising about the '11 "Footloose" is that its dance choreography is in many cases almost exactly the same as in the original. Ren's warehouse punch-dancing follows almost all of the same beats as in the original, and the other sequences largely follow the narrative and dance rhythms of their predecessors, although the filmmakers wisely updated the club sequence to include some country line dancing. But if you wanted a second, liberated end-credits dancing sequence where the cast and crew are able to completely get down, then you've come to the right place.