A head-to-head comparison of the 1984 original movie and the 2011 remake
“Footloose” the song is still a toe-tapping gem and I guess that is one reason that someone felt it was necessary to remake Footloose the movie, a perfectly fine and entertaining semi-classic from 1984. Another reason to create a remake is that the music has remained in the public ear thanks to the Broadway show that was created from the original film in 1998, and has been around the country in touring companies and the like ever since. It played at least twice at an Atlantic City casino venue, most recently at the Tropicana in October 2009.
My main beef with remakes is that if they were good enough the first time around, why do it again, unless you have a plan that improves on the original. And, while the 2011 version of the film starring newcomer Kenny Wormald as Ren McCormick and Julianne Hough as Ariel Moore doesn’t suck, it isn’t as good as the original.
Here then is my blow-by-blow comparison of the two films.
The Updated Plot
Here is where I thought the new movie did a nice job. While the idea that a town bans public dancing by teenagers is even more ridiculous in 2011 than it was in 1984, you can’t get around that necessary evil of including it as the central theme. However, the new film does a nice job of making the movie feel modern, in particular by having African Americans in the cast. I also thought it added some emotional weight with Ren’s mom dying of cancer right before he moves to the sticks, this time from Boston rather than Chicago. Fitting in it is really tough when you feel so alone and isolated.
The Casting Showdowns:
• Kenny Wormald vs. Kevin Bacon — Wormald, a trained dancer, has the edge in the dancing department with less use of a stunt double, plus he has great hair. Bacon fries him when it comes to the acting side of the role. He is an actor who has continued to show his versatility in the 27 years since he shouted “Let’s dance.”
• Julianne Hough vs. Lori Singer — Singer wasn’t great, and she didn’t go on to have an extensive career, but she made us believe in Ariel’s daredevil side. Hough, from Dancing with the Stars, is a better dancer, but she is downright awful as an actress. It was painful to watch her try to pull off this wild child in the scenes where she wasn’t dancing.
• The Rest of the Cast — Dennis Quaid (as Rev. Shaw) is one of my favorite actors, but he is just too devilish to play a preacher who thinks rock ‘n’ roll and dancing are evil. Besides he once played Jerry Lee Lewis and it was hard not to forget that. John Lithgow was more convincing and brought more compassion and weight to the role. In addition, Dianne Wiest as Mrs. Shaw blows Andie MacDowell away. Then we have Willard (Miles Teller). Teller does a fine job but it is hard not to feel sad remembering how adorable Chris Penn was in the 1984 version. His death at age 50 in 2006 makes this remake a bit of an insult to his memory. He nailed the role and that’s what we should remember.