By Max Sass, Editor-in-Chief
Christopher Brewer's remake of "Footloose" is a bit like the line dance his characters follow in one of their few successful scenes; one step forward, immediately followed by two steps back.
Any progress that Brewer's film made towards modernizing the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic was ruined by poor acting, overly sexualized characters and a seeming confusion over when the movie took place.
In Brewer's defense, we have not seen a particularly successful dance movie since Flashdance (1983) and the original Footloose. That is, of course, with the most sincere of apologies to Step-Up 3D.
Footloose has the chance to be a bridge between generations as a dance movie, but it instead went in the direction of a movie with dance in it, an important distinction.
The casting of Kenny Wormald (Ren) and Julianne Hough (Ariel) would have been spot on. Both were dancers before they were actors, Wormald as a Justin Timberlake back-up dancer and Hough famously on Dancing With The Stars.
Instead, Brewer asked them primarily to act and only secondarily to dance.
Any chance at depth was defeated when two novice actors with dancing backgrounds were asked to carry a more profound plot. Even the usually sterling Dennis Quaid, as Ariel's father and the town's preacher, was spoiled by the inexperience of Wormald and Hough.
When the pair was allowed to just dance, they absolutely shone. Hough grabbed every male's attention with her twists and turns, hair waving and Wormald dazzled the ladies with his almost Bacon-like swagger and fast feet.
Even if the two were talented actors, that would have been hidden by how sexualized they were. Never did Ariel's outfit leave much to the imagination and the lasting image has to be Ren sliding his hands down Ariel's impeccable legs, covered only by skimpy denim shorts, as the two grinded in a parking lot.
Wormald's Boston accent was thick and impressive at times, but it disappeared for long portions of the movie. Confusion reigned when first Ren is teaching his friend Willard (Miles Teller, convincingly country) to dance with an iPod on and then not too long after, Ariel plays music for Ren from a cassette tape.
Brewer could not balance paying homage to the original 17 years earlier, and keeping his movie in 2011. He successfully modernizes the music (using country star Blake Shelton and others to bring it into the 21st century) and even fits in "Let's Hear it For the Boy," as Willard learns to dance.
But when Wormald exactly mirrors Bacon from 17 years earlier by stripping down to tight jeans and a tank-top and dancing by himself in a warehouse, it seems out of place and forced. And when 2011 Ren enters the final dance in a tuxedo almost identical to that of 1984 Ren, he just seems like an imposter amongst his classy, modernly dressed friends.
Footloose 2.0 could have been a hit if it embraced modernization, focused on the dance and let the attractive Hough and Wormald play to their strengths. Instead, the movie got lost trying to bridge a 17-year gap.