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Three years after a tragic and deadly, post-dance party car accident, Boston-raised Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald), moves to a still mourning town called Bomont to live with his uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon), aunt (Kim Dickens), and their family. Though an outsider, Ren is charming enough to makes friends with Willard Hewitt (Miles Teller), a fellow senior at Bomont High, and develops a romantic in Reverend Shaw Moore’s (Dennis Quaid) rebellious daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough). Ariel’s dirt-track driver boyfriend Chuck Cranston (Patrick Flueger) doesn’t appreciate the attention, and starts a feud with Ren. Meanwhile, Ren is troubled by Bomont’s strict, post-tragic car accident ban on dancing, and takes up the pro-dance cause while wooing Ariel.

 Footloose (2011)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we have enough cool kid fish out of water high school movies (staring people in their 20s), and that we never really needed a direct remake of one of the genre’s originators, Footloose. But apparently director Craig Brewer ( Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) was convinced enough of his childhood favourite’s modern relevance to revisit its charmingly outdated themes. The concept is precious, but I remain unconvinced that there’s anything relevant about this remake. Had Brewer placed his film in the years following the Rodney King riots, or the months following the Columbine shooting I’d understand the comparative relevance of the subject manner. I’d even understand Brewer using the themes as a not so thinly veiled condemnation of post-9/11 Christian conservatism, but the time for that would’ve been something like five years ago. This updated version takes place in an unintentionally comedic world where toothless Christian Right types vaguely lament the dangers of shockingly tame teenage lifestyles. There’s nothing threatening about the adult authority figures beyond the fact that they’re terminal buzzkills. Brewer starts off on a good foot, subversively dunking the audiences’ heads in an ocean of tragedy right after fulfilling their basic expectations of the fluffy original film. As a fearful Yankee, I kept waiting for a horror movie to break out, the kind here the big city kids are stalked and eaten by crazy backwoods cannibals. It never quite happens, but I held out hope.

Dennis Quaid’s performance and presence is so neutered watching him will make the spot between your legs ache. These characters were heavy handed years ago, haven’t aged well, and leaving them generally untouched is the wrong move. Not a single person on screen, outside of perhaps Ren’s Uncle Wes (Ray McKinnon), is relatable. I found the High School Musical troop more human and realistic. Lead Kenny Wormald has a dash of charm, but he can’t keep up a Boston accent to save his life, and I more or less couldn’t tell the difference between Ren and the film’s supposed villain. Well, no, the villain is the particularly whiney one, not the one that dances out his frustrations like a 10-year-old girl. And I see absolutely no reason anyone should want anything to do with Ariel. She’s the most unlikable character in the entire film, which is a terrible place for a love interest to be. I understand that she’s meant to grow with the story, and represent something of a strong heroine, but she really does little outside of the kind of self-destructive stuff seen in hard R-rated movies about drug addicts. I understand the purpose of the character, but don’t have any patience for her.

 Footloose (2011)
Despite all my whining, I’ll admit Brewer knows how to cut a dance sequence, and he doesn’t let the droning, inconsequential plot get in the way of a two-step or crunk. The dances are well framed, capturing the acrobatics better than the shaky, over-cut Step-Up movies. Slow motion isn’t over used, and when it is used it works with the rhythm of the scene. I admit I sort of forgot about how much I hated the characters most times they were awing me with their foot-tapping abilities, but the second they started talking I was thrust back into Angerville, population: me. The one genuinely unique and joyful sequence in the film features little girls teaching Willard  to dance to ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’, and this leads me to admit that Brewer also has an incredible eye for montage, no matter how silly and cliché they may be. And when people aren’t dancing they’re aimlessly racing school buses in one of the more pathetic Rebel without a Cause shout-outs I’ve ever seen, but again, Brewer shoots this stuff well, with an eye for weight, impact, and movement. Perhaps someone can hand him the Fast and Furious flicks when Justin Lin finally quits and makes some kind of B-superhero movie for Marvel (I’m gonna guess Luke Cage). So long as there aren’t any court sequences, which appear to be Brewer’s kryptonite. Any air left in the film is entirely deflated during this particular court pre-climax, and the final dance suffers as a result.

 Footloose (2011)

Video


Footloose was filmed using standard 35 mm film, which was then digitally treated to bring out certain vibrancies and contrasts (the deleted scenes are not digitally graded, and are generally much softer). This 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer captures everything I’m assuming director Craig Brewer and cinematographer Amy Vincent meant to put visually into their film. Details are sharp, but not expressly and overly-impressively so. The contrast levels are ratcheted pretty high, which leaves some of the textures and background complexities somewhat flattened in some cases. But generally speaking there’s plenty of detail to enjoy and all the edges are sharply cut, despite the generally gritty grain levels. The problem I have with the style is that the high contrast black levels are rarely true black, and this is as obvious of a stylistic choice as the similar looking release of Martha Marcy May Marlene. Colours are quite vibrant, leaving skin tones a bit on the orange side, and darker hues a bit on the blue side, but generally this is a hyper-real hue mix that pushes natural colours to somewhat neon degrees. The colours run into each other a little bit, but are largely sharply separated, and gradations are smooth without obvious banding or edge halo effects.

 Footloose (2011)

Audio


Seeing that Footloose is, effectively speaking, a musical, music plays the strongest role of any aural element on this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Music changes tone and volume depending on type and source. A good example of this is a sequence towards the beginning of the film where Ren fixes a Volkswagen Beetle and plugs his music in from his iPod speakers, where they whistle softly, into a loudspeaker where they blare throughout the front channels. The popping bass during hip-hop sequences is standout, but there’s also plenty of LFE support on line dancing sequences as big boots hit the wooden floor. Basic dialogue sequences don’t feature much in the way of ambience outside the basic noise of center channel actions, but there are other standout moments outside the music, including noisy racing sequences with expressive directional movement throughout the stereo and surround channels. The crashes during the school bus race rival just about anything heard on the latest Fast and the Furious disc, there just aren’t as many of them.

 Footloose (2011)

Extras


The extras begin with a commentary track featuring director Craig Brewer. Brewer is a wonderfully engaging commentator, and does a fantastic job telling the story of the making of the film in relatively chronological order, with a pleasantly personal twist. He stops his narrative at appropriate times to flip out a few factoids pertaining to the on-screen action, and mostly avoids blank spots and self-congratulatory side-quests. The track also acts well to point to the differences between this and the original film. He hasn’t convinced me his film was worth making, or at all relevant, but I actually enjoyed this commentary, and assume fans will love it.

Jump Back: Re-Imagining Footloose (14:50, HD) is a relatively fluffy EPK featuring interviews with director Craig Brewer, producers Craig Zadan, Brad Weston, and Neil Meron, production designer John Gary Steele, costume designer Laura Jean Shannon, original co-writer Dean Pitchford, and actors Dennis Quaid, Julianne Hough, Kenny Wormald, Miles Teller, Andie MacDowell and Patrick Flueger. Subject matter quickly covers the original film, the want to re-imagine it, Brewer’s strange interest in the project, costume and production design, and the film’s final message (bleh). Everybody Cut: The Stars of Footloose (13:00, HD) focuses on the casting process, and the members of the cast, including more interviews with the same folks seen on the previous featurette. Dancing with the Footloose Stars (12:40, HD) covers the film’s eclectic choreography, including interviews with choreographer Jamal Sims, along with the other featurette folks. The disc is completed with five deleted scenes featuring optional director’s commentary (6:50, HD), three music videos, and the Footloose Rap (2:00, HD).

 Footloose (2011)

Overall


Craig Brewer’s Footloose remake is well made, but not really any good thanks to an anachronistic and dull script, and lack of remotely likable characters. I kind of hate this movie, but don’t begrudge its fans one bit. The colourful photography looks very nice in 1080p video, and the musically driven DTS-HD MA soundtrack features some surprisingly potent car smash-ups. The director’s commentary is charming and informative enough to make me wish I liked his film more, but the addition extras are fluffy, made-for-TV EPK junk.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and DVD releases and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer. Thanks to Troy at Andersonvision.com for the Blu-ray screen-caps.


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