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Craig Brewer's "Footloose" is so familiar that one could argue the movie didn't need to be made at all just do a digital restoration of the original 1984 version and let theater audiences groove to Kevin Bacon's dance moves all over again.
Yes, Brewer sticks to the original story so closely that he shares screenplay credit with Dean Pitchford, who wrote the '84 version. Yes, he repeats music cues from the original soundtrack using Kenny Loggins' original cut of the title song and a kicky cover by Blake Shelton, as well as Deneice Williams' "Let's Hear It for the Boy." And he even steals actual camera shots from the late director Herbert Ross, from the close-ups of shoes in the opening credits to the lead character's confetti-backed "Let's Dance!" shout.
But Brewer and his young cast led by newcomer Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough (who, like the movie, has Utah roots) pump so much energy and heart into this rendition, you can't help but like it.
In the small town of Bomont, Ga., the city council has banned public dancing and the playing of loud music. The reasoning is more direct than simple religious strictures: Five high-school kids were killed in a car accident on the way home from a dance including the son of the town's minister, the Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid).
Three years after the accident, Boston high-schooler Ren McCormick (played by Wormald) arrives in Bomont to live with his Aunt Lulu (Kim Dickens) and Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon). Ren instantly runs afoul of Bomont's no-music ordinances after pumping Quiet Riot through the overamped stereo on his refurbished VW bug and learns how small-minded a small town can be.
At school, Ren befriends Willard (Miles Teller), a friendly good-ol'-boy with zero rhythm. And at church, he meets Ariel (Hough), the Rev. Moore's daughter. But Ren soon learns that Ariel doesn't act like a preacher's daughter; she's a thrill-seeking rebel who's dating Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger), a redneck race-car driver, behind Daddy's back.
Brewer and choreographer Jamal Sims ("Step Up 3D") use the original film's dance numbers (originally choreographed by Kenny Ortega, who dropped out of directing this remake) as a springboard for some fresh, dynamic sequences. And Brewer updates the casting with some diversity: Football captain Woody (Ser'Darius Blain) is black, and Willard's girlfriend Rusty (the Sarah Jessica Parker role in the original) is played by a Latina, the spunky and lovely Ziah Colon.
Wormald does a strong variation on Bacon's famous solo routine (the one they filmed in the Lehi Roller Mills), and he has the chops to match Hough, the former "Dancing With the Stars" champ, move for move. Hough, in her first leading role in a film (after a supporting turn in "Burlesque"), exudes charm and sex appeal though she'll have to dig a little deeper if she wants to avoid Katherine Heigl's career path of annoyingly lightweight romantic comedies.
"Footloose" is that rare remake that stays respectful to the source material while also keeping it alive and vibrant. If teenagers should be allowed to make their own mistakes, as Ren argues to the Bomont City Council, they should be allowed their own generation's version of "Footloose."
A rebel shakes up a small town, again, in this energetic remake of the 1984 original.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • Rated PG-13 for some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language.
Running time • 113 mins.