Footloose opens with iconic shots of feet splayed triumphantly in dance poses, egged on by Kenny Loggins’ infectious theme song from the 1984 Kevin Bacon “classic.” Writer-director Craig Brewer seems equally obsessed with the boogying feet and the knocked-over cups of beer on the sticky floor. In his previous directorial efforts, Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan, Brewer fetishized texture; he makes films about morality and sin so boldly sensual, they sweat and stink. That consequently makes him both an unlikely choice to direct a remake of a cheeseball ’80s mega-hit, and an inspired one. In Black Snake Moan, Samuel L. Jackson chains Christina Ricci to a radiator to keep her from sinning; comparatively, Footloose’s town-wide ban on dancing among young people is a meek half-measure. Brewer’s hot-and-bothered remake uncorks the original’s raging libido, and it’s as seamy and sordid as that damnable PG-13 rating will allow.
Dancer Kenny Wormald steps into the Kevin Bacon role of an outsider who moves into a sleepy small town that outlaws dancing among the under-18 set after a tragedy takes the lives of the town’s best and brightest. Wormald’s cockiness and brash good looks attract the attention of hot-to-trot minister’s daughter Julianne Hough, but preacher-man Dennis Quaid isn’t happy about his daughter potentially taking up with a no-goodnik who drives too fast and blasts that newfangled rock ’n’ roll.
Brewer has been cursed with the responsibility of making a premise that was hilariously anachronistic in 1984 (though ostensibly based on “actual events”) seem contemporary in 2011. He starts by playing up the Southern sexuality and laying on the texture with a dump truck; his Footloose is all about atmosphere, heat, and teenagers fucking. Alas, this ramping up of sexuality renders the forces of repression all the more cartoonish and dated: A sexed-up, edgier Footloose is still a corny morality play about a town that outlaws dancing. Brewer can’t decide whether to lampoon the original’s premise, play it straight, or push it even further into the realm of melodrama, but he mostly ends up playing it straight, to the film’s eventual detriment. His Footloose has sex, swagger, and even an edge of danger, but in the end, he’s hamstrung by the project’s innate ridiculousness.