by Timmy Semenza.
8:21 PM EST, November 21, 2011
A little over a month after the October 14 release of Footloose, consensus has settled in: Craig Brewer’s remake doesn’t cut it. What little praise has been allocated to the film has been faint, and most of it directed to Miles Teller’s performance in the role Chris Penn originated in 1984. Otherwise, the acting of the other two leads, the unimpressive dancing, and especially that the movie is “unnecessary” have been singled out as disappointments. I would like to take critics to task on this final point.
In the entertainment industry, there is no such thing as a necessary remake--not of a film, album, book, video game, or graphic novel. If, as Joan Didion claims, we tell ourselves stories in order to live, then we could survive without having to experience the same story in an updated form. (Granted, there is the possibility of a hack director ruining a great script, which would at least justify a remake.) It then follows that the fact that a given story is a remake does not matter at all, and should have no bearing on the judgment of the quality of a film. I defend 2011’s Footloose on this basis.
Being only twenty years old, I grew up almost entirely ignorant of the existence of the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic, which, I’ve heard, could hardly be called so. So when I went into the theater to see the new one, my mind was completely open to what the film had to offer. As a result, I had a delightful time. Brewer, along with the cast, imbues the movie with joyfully relentless energy that manages to avoid exhausting the audience in the way similar stories do (I’m looking at you, High School Musical).
What so many detractors have to say about Footloose is in terms of “nots,” as in: Kenny Wormald is not Kevin Bacon; Dennis Quaid is not John Lithgow; this is NOT the movie I remember. With this attitude, it is easy to miss the fact that although it is true that none of the actors in this film are the same as the originals, they are still great in their roles. Other than his lack of commitment to a Boston accent, Wormald brings a distinctly contemporary swagger to his performance without coming across as smugly one-note. Quaid’s quietly steely personality is well-suited for the conservative preacher, and if the plot comes to a screeching halt when he’s onscreen, that’s because it’s supposed to.
It is safe to say that this is indeed not the same film, because if it were then it would have no value whatsoever. This is why remakes, like all other movies, ought to be judged on their own merits. Take, for example, this year’s The Thing, which debuted on the same day as Footloose. Between the flat characters, dull CGI, and dumb script, the movie is simply another scrap on the slagheap of awful horror films; its status as a remake is irrelevant.