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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Footloose

March 4th, 2012

Footloose - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

The original Footloose came out nearly 30 years ago. Its reviews were moderately good, but it became a massive hit at the box office. (If you take into account inflation, it would have earned $175 million today, more or less.) Remaking Footloose for 2011 was a bit of a risk. Updating the story could be a little difficult without offending fans of the original movie. While if they didn't do enough, those who are in the target demographic now might think the story is too much a relic of the 1980s to bother seeing. Were the filmmakers able to walk that tightrope?

The Movie

The film begins with a wild high school party at an old farm (it's a small town). There's drinking, dancing, and more drinking. On the way home, Bobby Moore and some of his friends drift into the oncoming lane and before they know what's happening, they are hit head on by a truck. This tragedy is met with grief and anger and as result, Bobby's father, Reverend Shaw Moore, rallies the town council to institute curfew for people under 18, and ban public dancing and loud music within cities limits.

We flash forward three years and meet Ren McCormack who has just arrived in Bomont from Boston. He's moving in with his Uncle Wes and Aunt Lulu and their two kids. He has trouble fitting in. The small town is a lot more religious than he's used to. He's pulled over the cops for playing his car stereo too loud. And of course he's missing his mom, who died of cancer. He's not the only one having trouble dealing with the death of a family member. Bobby Moore's sister, Ariel, has been acting up. She's dating a bad boy, Chuck Cranston, and generally doing dangerous stuff that's scaring her best friend, Rusty.

They meet, first at church, then on the first day of the new school year, where Ren's culture clash intensifies. He does meet Willard Hewitt and Woody and learns of all of the strict rules. He gets into a pissing match with Chuck that ends with a bus race. Someone slips him a joint and he's nearly busted by the librarian. He's chewed out by the principal, who brings up his mother. This is too much for Ren, and he has to get out of there and blow off some steam. And in order to do that, he has to dance!

As I implied in my review of the original, I found Ren's need to dance to blow off steam as silly, and because of this, I could never get into the movie. I had heard that the updated version of the movie was significantly better than the original, so I was very hopeful. However, two main problems with the original still exist and this is still a major problem. In fact, one of the problems has gotten worse. In the opening, we learn how these draconian laws were put into place, and while it helps emphasize the emotional effects the crash had, they still don't make any sense. Five kids are killed in a drunk driving accident, so they ban music and dancing? No. It makes zero sense. The kids were breaking the law by drinking, because they were under 21, so I can see cracking down on alcohol sales and even the curfew makes sense. But banning public dancing? Secondly, a law like this would be struck down in seconds if the ACLU got involved. A law banning public dancing and loud music felt outdated in 1984, and it fairs much worse today. At least in 1984, MTV and music videos were new enough to be seen as some kind of threat.

There are some improvements in the film, including better overall dancing skill. The two leads, Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough, were cast mainly for their dancing skill and therefore there's no really obvious body double work like in the first movie. However, even here, the dance scenes were only adequate. Maybe if they were big and choreographed, it would have hurt suspension of disbelief, but with competition from so many other dance movies, they needed something more to stand out. If you are going to cast leads mainly for their dancing skills, and not their acting skills, use those talents. Some of the acting does hold up well in comparison; for instance, Miles Teller as Willard. The scene where he learns to dance is one of the best in the movie. A lot of the adults have deeper roles than their counterparts in the original, including Andie MacDowell, as Vi Moore.

(On a side note, I was going to make fun of Kenny Wormald's Boston accent, which seemed to waver in and out. However, he was born in Boston, Massachusetts, so it's authentic. If I have a problem with it, it's my fault.)

The Extras

The extras on the DVD begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Craig Brewer. For a solo track, it has a lot of energy and he provides more than enough information to last the film's running time. He also does commentary on five deleted scenes. Plus there's a music video. That not a lot. The Blu-ray has two featurettes on remaking the original film and updating it for today. There's a featurette on the dancing and finally a second music video. Granted, none of the extras push the technology, but it is something.

The technical presentation is excellent, especially the audio. Music is such an important feature of this film that the audio is doubly important and fortunately, it is immersive with the surround sound speakers getting a workout. The video is also strong would high level of details, powerful colors, strong contrast, deep blacks, etc.

The Blu-ray does cost 42% more than the DVD, which is a tad on the high side. It does come with a DVD / digital copy of the movie, so that is a mitigating factor.

The Verdict

Overall, this version of Footloose is better than the original, but it is still frustratingly average. There are not a lot of extras on the DVD, so it is worth just a rental. However, there are some exclusives on the Blu-ray Combo Pack, and the audio / video presentation is strong enough to lift it to a purchase.

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