‘Footloose’ remake has the right steps

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“Footloose”

2.5 out of 4 stars

113 minutes

Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

Everybody wants to keep their kids away from bad influences.

Underage drinking? Naturally.

Offensive music? Well, OK.

Dancing?

Yeah, some people might have fewer issues with that than the people of “Footloose.”

Moving from Boston to Bomont, Ga., to live with his extended family wasn’t something teenager Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) had planned.

The transition from the urban to the rural is made all the worse by the oppressive atmosphere in his new town, which bans loud music, drinking, public dancing, pretty much anything the typical teen might like.

The set of special laws have been on the books for the last few years thanks to the efforts of Bomont’s local preacher (Dennis Quaid), who instantly takes a disliking to Ren as he questions the need for such rules. The good reverend is even more agitated once the boy takes an interest in his daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough), but Ren’s intentions are pure, as is his desire to shake up the sleepy town with a crusade to allow dancing within city limits.

Wormald’s significant dance experience makes him an ideal choice for the lead role here even if his acting is more than a little forced, especially his Boston accent.

While Kevin Bacon may have looked past his prime to portray a high school senior in the original film, the new kid in town is older still at 27, although he could fit in with the likes of Zac Efron and Chace Crawford, the original choices to play Ren.

“Dancing with the Stars” competitor Hough provides a pleasant energy playing Ariel, whose former good girl personality has been taken over by a need to act out in her button-down community and date an older, troublemaking punk (Patrick John Flueger), all behind her daddy’s back.

But, standing at the pulpit railing against the evils of the modern world isn’t solely for the purpose of being a killjoy.

Quaid seems more human than John Lithgow did almost 30 years ago as the holy man who wants to quash inappropriate behavior in Bomont as a result of his eldest son dying tragically after driving home from a party.

Pass all the laws you want, Rev, kids are still going to find a way to be kids, although most of these youngsters are far too wholesome to worry about, such as Ziah Colon as Ariel’s best friend, Ser’Darius Blain as the captain of the football team, and Miles Teller as Ren’s right-hand man Willard, who’s all for getting in the spirit of fun as long as he doesn’t have to head out on the dance floor.

Apparently you can enjoy music just as well against the wall, nodding your head to the beat.

Kenny Loggins’ original eponymous tune starts us out, but Blake Shelton’s redo bookends the story. Likewise, the majority of the soundtrack consists of covers of hits associated with the 1984 version.

“Holding Out for a Hero” by Ella Mae Bowen, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Jana Kramer and “Almost Paradise” by Victoria Justice and Hunter Hayes each have a certain twang in their new incarnations.

Music has been an indispensable component of director Craig Brewer’s filmography, and while “Hustle & Flow” had hip-hop and “Black Snake Moan” had the blues, his newest is centered on the country feel with a little bluegrass and crunk mixed in for good measure.

Brewer puts his own spin on this record even if the original narrative — which was pretty weak, even for the 1980s — is treated like the gospel. A few nods to the movie that inspired it, like Ren’s ramshackle yellow Volkswagen beetle and Ariel’s red cowgirl boots are cute, but Brewer and co-scripter Dean Pitchford could have taken it a little further.

In a year of remakes good and bad, “Footloose” cuts a rug with the best of them thanks to dynamite choreography and a fun southern feel. And, for a movie that could have turned into “High School Musical 4: Country Cousins,” this is surprisingly realistic.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and at Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

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