Let’s face it, any film that was ever remotely popular during any decade is eventually going to get remade. It’s not a question of if, but when. If not a remake, then a reboot. While most remakes suffer in comparison to their original source, every now and then we get one that not only matches the classic that it came from…but also surpasses it in many ways. Director Craig Brewer’s Footloose is an example of how to bring a somewhat ‘cheesy’ 1980′s story to a new generation and give modern audiences a taste of what made the first film such a memorable hit. This is going to be my first review where I ultimately compare details from both an original film and it’s remake…what worked better in the original and what works better now. So, let’s break it down…character vs. character, actor vs. actor, and the good changes vs. the bad ones.
The first comparison is a tough one, simply because Kenny’s Ren MacCormack has a much more interesting backstory than Kevin’s. Kenny’s Ren is from Boston and is transplanted to the small town of Bomont after the death of his mother to leukemia. Kevin’s Ren moves to Bomont with his mother and they live with his uncle, Wes. Kenny is naturally the better dancer of the two and he does a fine job filling Kevin Bacon’s shoes here. Kenny’s strong points, other than the dancing, is that he has a rather strong screen presence, as did Kevin. The differences in the character primarily fuel the differences in the actors. Ren, in the original, feels more like a fish out of water than today’s Ren. Bacon made Ren seem more out of place and in need of acceptance. Wormald makes Ren more of a teenager who already kind of fits into this small town society. Bacon excels more in the love story aspect of the film and that may have to do with the fact that he had much better chemistry with Lori Singer than Wormald has with Julianne Hough. More on that below. Overall, I liked both equally for different reasons. However, if I must choose – I give a slight edge to Wormald because he has more character development going for his Ren.
Edge: Kenny Wormald
The late Chris Penn’s portrayal of Ren’s new best bud Willard is a tough act to follow. I honestly thought this might be the character that got screwed up the most in the remake, but to my surprise, the casting of Miles Teller was perfect. Teller, who did great work in Rabbit Hole, is the closest to an original character that the film gets. It’s quite amazing that Miles performance is so similar to Chris’ simply due to the fact that Miles has never seen the original film. This tells you just how good he was for the role…as was Penn. Chris Penn’s Willard was a bit more on the tough side and Miles’ has a bit more humor. All in all, they are both effective in their own way. I did feel that the new Willard got slighted in the dance floor brawl, as he gets very little from that one punch that knocks him out. Penn’s Willard had a really bloody mess, where the new one only gets a bit of color and swelling. Didn’t care for that. As mentioned above, the love story aspect of the characters are far better in the original, and there is no exception here. Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Penn, who are physically not a good match, made up for this by having a really sweet relationship. Miles Teller and the new Rusty, Ziah Colon, have the same physical mismatch, but they never make you believe that they are a real c0uple. It’s a big drawback in the film and adds to an area of the production that could have been a lot better.
- Dennis Quaid vs. John Lithgow
Both of these great actors offer something completely different to the role of Reverend Shaw Moore, who is Ariel’s father. Not only do they give a completely different approach to the character, but the character itself is written with a different goal in mind. John Lithgow’s version of Shaw Moore is by far the more powerful of the two. The Reverend is more more of a force in the community, where Dennis Quaid’s Moore is a more laid back, but equally respected leader of the church. It’s obvious that the remake’s filmmakers wanted to tone down the Shaw Moore character a bit and focus more on the teens and that’s fine, but it’s because of this that Lithgow becomes the preferred choice. His role is meatier…his presence is more profound…and in the end, the relationship between him and his wild child daughter carries more weight than that of the remake. Quaid does, however, give a fine performance here and nails exactly what the role asked of him. On another note - in regards to Shaw Moore’s wife, Vi Moore - Dianne Wiest, who originated the character far better suits the role than Andie MacDowell. Wiest is much more believable as a reverend’s wife and her sweetness helped offset the tension between her husband and her daughter. MacDowell didn’t really offer much to the part…but once again, I believe this was the filmmakers intent. Pull back on the adults…focus more on the teens.
Edge: John Lithgow
Julianne Hough vs. Lori Singer
Ok, so judging by the photo above, Julianne wins hands down…right? Not so fast. Yes, Julianne is the better dancer (she is a professional dancer) and she is unarguably the better looking of the two actresses. I also give her props for doing a really good job in her first starring role. Let’s face it, she could have really been awful here, considering the fact that she has very little acting experience. She almost looks too beautiful to be hanging amongst the crowd she hangs with and that might be the biggest drawback to her character. In the original, Lori Singer portrayed rebel daughter Ariel Shaw, with a sense of desperation…a sense of really needing to get out of the small town and move on to bigger and better things. What Lori lacked in dancing skills (honestly, everyone in the original could have used more lessons, but hey, it was what it was for the time), she made up for with making the audience really feel for her and her struggles with her well respected reverend father. I really enjoyed Julianne’s take on Ariel, but I prefer Lori’s. It just better suits the character.
Edge: Lori Singer
Original vs. remake (overall)
Tough call here. There are highs and lows to both films and neither is perfect, but there is something about the original that stays with you a bit longer than the remake does. While the new version definitely improves on the dancing (let’s face it, some of the dancing in the original is really suspect), the original version has more of the ‘small town’ feel going for it, which is essential to the overall storyline of the film. The new actors do primarily good jobs here, especially Kenny Wormald, but the cast of the original is more memorable than the new one. Strong points of the remake include a remarkable opening sequence that shows the reason why the town doesn’t want their children listening to loud music or dancing provocatively. We see Ariel’s brother and his friends perish in a horrific car crash, which sets the rest of the film in motion. This was a nice addition, considering that the original just ‘mentions’ the accident, but never shows it. By showing it, the filmmakers here add more emotion and drama to the film and gives the audience a better understanding as to why this small town of Bomont is so against anything that might cause their children harm. The music, just as was the originals, is top notch. Yes, most of the really popular songs from the original soundtrack are redone here…and redone very well. Blake Shelton’s version of Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” is just as energetic as the original. Interesting thing…we get Kenny’s version at the beginning of the film and Blake’s at the end. Nice touch. Ren MacCormack’s character is far better developed in the new version, but Reverend Shaw Moore’s is pulled back a bit, which I think hurts the film. It takes away from the dramatic tension between him and his daughter…something which was so strong in the original. At the end of the day, I have to call it even. All things considered, you can’t go wrong with either of them. The new Footloose does a fine job at modernizing the familiar tale most of us kids from the ’80′s considered a guilty pleasure.
Footloose (Original) Rating:
You can order the original from Amazon.com by clicking here
Footloose (original) blu-ray
Footloose (Remake) Rating:
And you can order the remake on blu-ray by clicking here
Footloose (remake) blu-ray