The opening moments of Craig Brewer's Footloose give us something old and something new. It begins with a static close-up of sneakers stomping on a beer-smeared dance floor strewn with crushed Dixie cups, gettin' footloose to the familiar strains of Kenny Loggins' smash title track. The nostalgic mood is suddenly obliterated when teenagers leaving the dance party are killed in a head-on collision. In response, the city council of sleepy Bomont, Ga., led by Presbyterian minister Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), whose son was killed in the crash, passes a series of ordinances intended to outlaw youthful revelry, including a ban on loud music, public alcohol consumption and, most of all, lewd and lascivious dancing.
Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) places his affinity for Southern settings front and center. He transplants the original film's Utah setting to a burg in Georgia that's poised, like so many cities in the Deep South, on the cusp of transcending its traditional race, class and religious divisions. Brewer has also tweaked some of the details of the original film's big scenes. While Brewer goes to great lengths to incorporate the original soundtrack—sometimes in their original form, sometimes rerecorded with new artists—he also mixes in a contemporary blend of country, rock and hip-hop, backed by performers ranging from Blake Shelton to Smashing Pumpkins to Wiz Khalifa. The dancing now runs the gamut from parking lot krumping to country line.
Still, despite this tinkering around the edges as well as Brewer's distinctive gritty palette, Footloose's plot remains otherwise unchanged and just as hokey. Boston boy Ren McCormick (Kenny Wormald) moves to town sporting shades, a 21 Jump Street hairdo and a big-city attitude. Trouble comes his way after he plays his music too loud and dances too closely with Ariel (Julianne Hough), the preacher's flamboyant daughter.
As in his previous features, Brewer's characters often veer into caricature, especially Ren's new friend Willard (Miles Teller) and the rest of the hayseeds in Bomont, a place where folks still work at the cotton gin and call each other "darlin'." And, for all the director's heightened attention to verisimilitude, the town is some alternate Southern universe where there is no hint of racial tension. Wormald and Hough make an alluring pair, and while their acting won't wow audiences, their energetic bump-and-grinding will titillate viewers of both sexes. Is it all corny? Yes, but Brewer makes it OK for everybody to cut Footloose ... just fight that feeling of déjà vu.