‘Footloose’ Is Good and Even the Stars are Surprised

by | December 14, 2011 at 2:36 PM | Celebrity Interview, Movies

Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough in 'Footloose' (Paramount)

The “Footloose” remake is a good movie. Seriously. I couldn’t believe it.

Neither could the film’s star, Kenny Wormald.

“I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this film,” Wormald told me, his Boston accent giving the statement a certain sincerity, like you know this guy wouldn’t lie to you.

The nearly unknown 27-year-old dancer and actor has appeared in music videos with Madonna, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Chris Brown. He’s also toured with Justin Timberlake and The Pussycat Dolls. This week, Wormald makes his leading man debut as Ren McCormack in the blindly criticized remake of the 1984 classic.

The plot is nearly the same: McCormack, originally played by Kevin Bacon, moves from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont, where dancing and rock music were banned after a carload of teens were killed coming home from a party. McCormack quickly clashes with the law, as well as Bomont’s moral enforcer, Reverend Moore (Dennis Quaid), particularly after he falls for the preacher’s rebellious daughter, Ariel (played by “Dancing with the Stars” alum Julianne Hough).

Like many fans of the original, Wormald and Hough – who claimed to have seen the movie “a hundred times” between them – were skeptical of a “Footloose” remake. Why would Hollywood mess with a classic?

“I understand people being loyal,” Wormald said. “We’re huge fans of the original and I’ve been a fan of movies that have been remade and sometimes they don’t turn out as good or better at all. So, they didn’t want to see that. They didn’t want to see a ****ty ‘Footloose.’”

So, how does the new “Footloose” improve on its predecessor?

For starters, director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) doesn’t mutilate an already successful formula. Much of the film is a shot-for-shot remake with dialogue lifted directly from the original script and cameos by many of the movie’s iconic songs. (Yes, even Kenny Loggins’ title theme.) However, Brewer sets his film apart with emotional depth, slick pacing and a more balanced debate of the film’s moral, religious and political issues.

“I love the original,” Hough, 23, told me. “It’s awesome. But I feel like our version definitely explained a lot and connected things. It all ties together. You have so much more feeling towards the preacher, because you get him. And, Ariel – you get why she’s acting out.”

Wormald added: “Craig Brewer, when he first saw [‘Footloose’] he was 13, so he felt like Ren. But, now, he’s an adult. He has children of his own. So he feels a bit like the Reverend.”

Adding to the modern-day relevance of “Footloose,” said the stars, is the film’s depiction of society’s knee-jerk reactions to negative situations, its tendency to misplace and deflect blame and its increased appetite for over-sheltering youth.

“As Americans, we react and overreact when things happen – tragedies and stuff like that,” Hough said. “[The movie] just shows the town in that respect, rather than this religious, you know, ‘We’re saving your souls by this.’ They’re saving their lives by protecting them, but it’s too much.”

“It’s not just – ‘If you dance, you go to hell,’” Wormald elaborated. “No, this is – ‘If you party and drink and get messed up, there’s a chance you’re gonna die in a car accident.’ It’s very relevant.”

Traditionally, movie remakes are terrible. Few are watchable and even fewer come within screaming distance of being better than the flicks that inspired them. “Conan the Barbarian” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” are two examples of recent re-dos that fell a football field away from decent. “The Departed” and “True Grit” are among history’s exceptions to the rule. Where does “Footloose” fall on the scale?

“If we’re talking ’80s remakes, I’d say it’s …” Wormald paused and raised his hand above his head, signifying that his film would be on top of the pack. “I think it’s a great ode to the original writer that most of his stuff is still in the script.”

“It’s timeless,” Hough chimed in.

“Craig just added and he said, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’” Wormald continued. “I think we took everything that was important from the original and mashed it up with some new stuff and I just really believe in the film and we’re so proud of it. I’ll put it on top of any remake.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.