Earlier, we put Herbert Ross’s beloved Footloose under the When Can I Watch microscope and found that the staple of our childhood was a little more mature than its PG rating suggested. Even Craig Brewer (read our interview here), the man behind the new Footloose remake, has said in recent interviews that the original likely would be rated R if it had to go before today’s MPAA for judgment.
How would Brewer’s version fare? It’s dancing into theaters with a teenage-friendly PG-13 rating, and likely could have flirted with an R for some of the suggestive material he snuck into his feature.
Not that they don’t fit. Footloose is a story of teenage rebellion, and parents need to refresh their memories of the themes on display before they let their own kids “tear up this town,” as Kenny Loggins so melodiously proposed.
So if your kids are responding to Footloose ads they are seeing online, on MTV, or during commercial breaks for ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, let me run through a few elements that caught my eye during Brewer’s otherwise enjoyable remake.
Red Flags: You and Me, We Should Be Dancing In The Sheets
Just about every red flag associated with the original – salty language, Ariel’s omnipresent death wish, bullying at Ren’s school, Ariel’s abusive boyfriend – make it into Brewer’s remake. The director doesn’t stray too far from Footloose screenwriter Dean Pitchford’s original story, and actually punches it up in places.
You’ll know in the opening minutes, where Brewer introduces his first major change, that this Footloose isn’t a harmless, high-energy dance picture for kids of all ages. Brewer decides he’s going to show us the car accident that claims the lives of five teenagers, and prompts Rev. Moore (here played by Dennis Quaid) to outlaw dancing. It’s a smart choice, as we immediately feel the impact the loss has on the characters populating this small, Southern town. It’s also a warning sign to parents who might have brought young children to the theater that Footloose packs a punch, and might not be for kids.
You know who else packs a punch? Julianne Hough, who is a red flag all by her lonesome. By moving Footloose from Utah to the “Dirty South” of Georgia, Brewer decided he was going to make Footloose sexier. The man made Black Snake Moan, after all. And Hough helps him achieve this goal. Often. She also puts Lori Singer to shame. Wait until you see the look she gives Kenny Wormald’s Ren when he blows up a school bus during a drag race scene. Boys who enter theaters showing Footloose will leave as men.
The rest of the red flags in Brewer’s version were found in the original. Ariel, it’s implied, actually loses her virginity to her redneck boyfriend (the relationship didn’t go that far in 1984). And the confession of said act to her father still packs a punch. Kids smoke pot and drag race. The dancing is more bump-and-grind than it was in 1984, but that’s a sign of the times.
So long as parents know these elements are every bit a part of the new Footloose as they were with the original, they can decide how old their kid needs to be to cut loose.
Green Lights: Holding Out For a Remake
And if they do get to see Footloose, they’ll likely find it infectious … much like we did with the original.
As with Ross’s effort, Brewer’s Footloose plugs directly into teenage rebellion and gives it a kicking soundtrack. Country fans will better appreciate the twang on such staples as “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” or Blake Shelton’s title track. Country artist Emma Mae Bowen contributes a heartwrenching ballad version of “Holding Out For a Hero” that will find its way onto your iTunes. In fact, I might go so far as to say the new Footloose soundtrack surpasses the old one in terms of memorable tracks that mesh with their on-screen action.
And then there’s the cast. Hough and Wormald embrace the thankless task of living up to Singer and Kevin Bacon’s portrayals of Ariel and Ren, and while they don’t make us forget the original characters, they certainly go the extra mile to make these personalities their own. Hough, in particular shows dramatic chops in scenes alongside Quaid and Andie MacDowell. (Co-star Miles Teller, previously seen in Rabbit Hole, also shines.) And Wormald, a dancer by trade, bursts off the screen in most of Footloose’s signature scenes. I guess you’d say he could cut loose … footloose.
As with the original, the rating’s a little off. Where Ross’s picture cheated the system by scoring a PG rating (largely because the PG-13 didn’t exist yet), Brewer’s version pushes the envelope enough to earn an R. Losing your virginity, describing threesomes with graphic sexual language, playing chicken with trains … it’s material meant to connect for older teens, and those of us who were teenagers back when the original Footloose came out nearly 30 years ago.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That With My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Spy Kids, to name just a few.