Let's hear it for the boy. The "Footloose" remake has taken plenty of criticism as an unneeded redo of a beloved 1980s classic. But the new version actually blows the cobwebs off the old plot and not only brings it up to date, but improves it in several areas.
We'll assume you know the plot: Ren McCormack moves to a small southern town where teen public dancing is forbidden, falls for preacher's daughter Ariel and teaches the town that dancing might just be good for the soul.
There's a sense throughout the remake that the moviemakers knew that they were treading on sacred, if cheesy, ground, and thus left in several obvious but subtle nods to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film. Ren drives a classic yellow Volkswagen Bug, as Bacon's character did. Ariel still wears red cowboy boots. The unexplained constant rain of glitter at the prom scene in the original gets an explanation here. And the irresistibly catchy songs that made the movie such a hit kick in as the film begins and run, in various forms, all the way through.
Kenny Wormald, a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake, doesn't quite have the Bacon twinkle, but he does a more than passable job in a film that has to sit solidly on his shoulders. Julianne Hough, a former pro dancer on "Dancing With the Stars," doesn't get as much of a chance to show off those expert steps as you'd think, and her character comes off as a bit bratty. But Miles Teller, taking over for the late Chris Penn in the role of Ren's geeky pal Willard, all but steals the show in every scene he's in.
TODAY.com contributor Joe Reid wrote an article this week suggesting 5 ways in which the new film could outdance the original, and truly, it hits on almost all of them. One notable change is in the cast's diversity. Sarah Jessica Parker played Ariel's best friend, Rusty, in the original. Here Rusty is played by Ziah Colon, of Puerto Rican descent, and numerous pals in the cast are African-American. And there's some nice depth added to the characters' backgrounds. Especially well-rounded is Ray McKinnon as Ren's uncle, who could have been a rednecky dolt, but instead is both believable and likable.
Dennis Quaid takes the John Lithgow role as Ariel's dad and the town's minister, with Andie MacDowell as his calm, quietly supportive wife. Quaid and McDowell are fine, but this is the kids' movie. Perhaps it's OK to loosen our tight grip on our 1980s memories, and kick off our Sunday shoes.
Any interest in seeing the remake, or is it dead to you?
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAY.com's movies editor and the co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s."