The idea of a small-town banning music and dancing sounded like a ridiculous premise for a movie in 1984, and it's just as ridiculous today. Growing up in the 21st Century, kids have freedom and access to information previous generations could only dream of. If such an ordinance were to pass today, thanks to how quickly such news travels, the town of Bomont, Georgia would be at the center of the nation's political discourse within hours. The adults in the movie are not so old as to have forgotten growing up with the same rebellious spirit and loud, energetic music they now attempt to extinguish. One character, the protagonist's uncle, even points this out to a few of his own peers. Absurd as it is, the plot was still more plausible thirty years ago than in this day and age.
So, it comes with a great deal of surprise that the filmmakers of this remake of 'Footloose,' a 1980s favorite where the adults were old enough to have a grudge against rock'n'roll, are actually able to pull it off. Working with the screenwriter of the original movie, Dean Pitchford, director Craig Brewer gives the unlikelihood of such local statutes some credibility pretty early on. By making the tragic events which led to the laws a bit more recent and fresh in the town's mind, viewers quickly understand the situation as the knee-jerk reaction of loving parents wanting to protect their children from harm. No one is ever arrested or jailed, though tickets are issued frequently. But remind the judge of his Def Leppard days, and you're off with a warning.
These ordinances are more like paternalistic rules and guidelines for moral behavior than an outright ban against music and dancing. The teens of Bomont can still have fun, just not in their own way, which really sucks. School socials are organized by the local churches, and at least one dance of the night must be with a boy's mother — the perfect method for ruining one's instinctual urges. The film's plotline remains identical to the one directed by Herbert Ross and starring Kevin Bacon, down to several scenes and a good chunk of the dialogue, but its thematic gaze has moved from repressive ideals which take away freedom and civil liberty to authoritarian laws that prohibit the freedom of expression.
Craig Brewer, whose previous works include the much better 'Hustle & Flow' and 'Black Snake Moan,' introduces the story of fighting the system to a new generation of moviegoers with an energetic panache. With a rocking selection of classic and contemporary tunes leading the way, this 'Footloose' moves with the same stamina and tempo as the kids on screen, something which was admittedly missing in the original. Without changing too much to a familiar teen favorite, Brewer simply updates it with a slicker and sexier look, making it relative to an audience already demanding for more dance films in theaters. Also, the camera stays fixed on the cast during the many dance numbers, showing audiences the actors performing their own routines, not cutting-away to body doubles.
Refreshing and entertaining as some of it may be, however, the teen drama still suffers from a heavy, mawkish hand, and a director who can't seem to decide when to make the story his own versus copying his predecessor. The hero's dance solo in the empty warehouse — a near-mirror image of Bacon's emotional gambol — remains just as corny and silly as always, but the sequence with the reverend (Dennis Quaid) breaking up a hip-hop shindig in the drive-in is a welcome change. The movie continually goes back and forth between a modern twist to certain aspects of the story and emulating the original scene almost exactly, hoping fans of the 1984 film will view it as homage. But really, it's not.
Add to that the fact that the two young leads trying to fill in the shoes of Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer are terrible in their roles. A professional dancer from a young age, Kenny Wormald fails to bring the sort of charisma and sympathetic appeal required of the character to win our support. He always looks like he's concentrating real hard on his acting. He should go back to being a backup dancer because he's not ready for center stage. It doesn't help that he's accompanied by Julianne Hough, a popular country singer who oversells her lines like she's trying to impress someone. She may have the talent for the singing and dancing, but none of it translates well in front of the camera. Makes me wish the filmmakers had used body doubles for the acting parts.
Nonetheless, 'Footloose' makes for a brisk and enjoyable 113-minute dance musical that younger viewers can boogie their butts to. Even us old farts who grew up with the Herbert Ross original can find something to tap our feet to, seeing that same rebellious spirit we relished in our music expressed by today's generation.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment brings Craig Brewer's 'Footloose' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for the UltraViolet digital copy. Sitting on opposing panels inside a blue eco-cutout case, the first is a Region Free, BD50 disc while the second is a DVD-9 copy. At startup, viewers can skip through several trailers of upcoming releases before seeing the main menu with music and full-motion clips.
'Footloose' dances its way onto Blu-ray with an astounding, tiptop 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1).
The presentation radiates with spot-on contrast and brilliant whites. Although the exact season is unclear (spring would be my best guess), the picture keeps to Amy Vincent's crisp photography of Georgia and the beautiful landscape with a great sense of the hot weather. The color palette plays a big part in this, looking bold and vibrant throughout. Richly-saturated primaries provide an appealing energy while the soft secondary hues fill the rest of the screen with life and tons of warmth. The glossy transfer shows excellent definition and clarity in nearly every scene, exposing the smallest pebble on the road and every distinct brick or flaw on buildings and cars. Facial complexions appear natural, with superb, lifelike textures, and background objects in the distance are as sharply-detailed as those in the foreground.
My only minor nitpick is in the black levels, which are fairly good for the most part but tend to waver slightly on various occasions. Shadow delineation isn't effected much, but darker portions of the screen are noticeably murkier than others. Ignoring that small issue likely related to the photography, the Blu-ray is sure to impress both fans and first-time viewers alike.
The dance musical also cuts a rug without missing a beat in this highly-energetic and exciting DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Being a movie about busting a move to some loud, raucous music, the design is full of dynamic and animated tunes, which create a very expansive soundstage. The mid-range is pitch-perfect with clean separation of the highs and lows, generating a beautifully engaging image across the screen. Some punchy and terrifically responsive bass provides an appreciably deep low-end that reaches far into the back of the room. The music also spreads into the rear speakers flawlessly and envelops the listener with the film's spirited energy. Quieter scenes, especially those in the outdoors, come with clean ambient effects, which pan between channels convincingly and nicely expand the soundfield. Amid all this, dialogue reproduction remains clear and intelligible from beginning to end.
This lossless mix is a really great surprise for a teen drama.
The following bonus material is shared with the standard-def release of the movie.
Craig Brewer reimagines a 1980s favorite for a new generation, and surprisingly, it works for the most part, despite it still retaining some the story's more mawkish attributes. This 'Footloose' is a rowdy teen drama about freedom of expression and confronting the tragedies which sometimes lead to rash, unjustified decisions. Ignoring a few of its weaker aspects, the remake comes with lots of energy and a spirited vibe that's addictive, making it a fun watch. The Blu-ray features an excellent, near-reference picture quality and a rocking high-rez soundtrack that will fans jumping. The package comes with decent collection of supplements, but with more offered in high-def, the Blu-ray is the one to buy.