Don't look now, but Hollywood is currently in the process of taking every movie you ever loved and making it again, only dumber, flashier, and probably starring Taylor Lautner.
One of the latest examples to hit theaters, Craig Brewer's update of the "dancing teens defy town elders" classic "Footloose." The kneejerk reaction with any remake is to say it'll be awful. It's violating our childhood! But with this particular project, perhaps a pause: have you watched the original "Footloose" lately? The whole thing? You might come away from it with a kernel of hope for the remake.
If the new "Footloose" wants to best its predecessor, it's going to have to break through a thick haze of nostalgia, but there are definitely improvements to be made. Here are five ways the new kids could out-dance the old.
Kevin Bacon's step-touching was infectious in its own way, but as a dance movie, the original falls flat. In a fortuitous chain of casting events, Zac Efron and later Chace Crawford each ended up dropping out of the remake, paving the way for Kenny Wormald, a professional dancer who has worked with Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake.
In the role of preacher's daughter Ariel, we have Julianne Hough, another professional dancer. Hough is best known for her work on "Dancing with the Stars" (she won back-to-back seasons in 2007). The idea of a "Footloose" where the dancing is revelatory, rather than the best they could wring out of Kevin Bacon, is a pretty exciting one.
The original is no "Dirty Dancing", to say the very least. Not saying that Wormald and Hough are guaranteed to light the screen on fire, but if the "Step Up" series has taught us anything, it's that good dance chemistry can make up for the overall acting inexperience of the leads.
It's not like the original movie was completely unrealistic in casting a religiously conservative town as all-white town. But it's 2011 now, and we can be thankful that the producers realize that casting a monochromatic dance movie would be ridiculous. The leads aren't secretly ethnic or anything, but the supporting roles appear to be cast with an eye towards diversity. For one, the Sarah Jessica Parker role is being played by Ziah Colon, who's of Puerto Rican descent.
A simpler story
It's almost a guarantee that "Footloose" 2011 is going to be a dance movie, for better or worse. Sure, there's going to be a plot, but mostly that plot is going to amount to Reasons to Dance. That's not a bad thing! Answer yourself this question: are you buying a ticket to this movie to see if Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell can put a different spin on the "repressive town preacher and his quietly reproachful wife"? Do I have to type "Andie MacDowell" again to convince you? It's "Footloose." We come for the dancing, and dancing is what we're likely going to get.
The Craig Brewer factor
If Brewer can bring a bit of the directorial flavor and daring that he's brought to his previous films — the energy and conviction he used to make "Hustle & Flow" a surprise multiple-Oscar nominee; or even the hot-bellied insanity of "Black Snake Moan," it might be just enough to nudge "Footloose" '11 into that rarefied realm of remakes that outpace their originals.