There are cellphones and iPads and a more integrated cast in this reboot of 1984’s Footloose. Otherwise, it’s hard to tell the difference, so misguidedly beholding is director Craig Brewer to the original. The old Footloose is best remembered as a breakthrough for Kevin Bacon (I’d pick Diner, which came two years before) as a smartass Chicago kid who brings dirty dancing to a Christian small town that’s outlawed rock & roll as the devil’s music.
Newcomer Kenny Wormald, who’s danced backup for Justin Timberlake, steps into the Bacon role as Ren McCormack, now a Boston homey relocated to a Tennessee backwater where the local Rev. (Dennis Quaid, on rectitude overdrive) has banned dancing after four students died in a postprom car crash. Ren just has to rebel, which he does with the help of the Rev’s maverick daughter Ariel (Dancing With the Stars hottie Julianne Hough) and flat-footed buddy Willard (scene-stealer Miles Teller). This High School Musical stuff de-balls the from-the-crotch heat you expect from Brewer, who unleashed Hustle and Flow. And the updates on the original’s soundtrack hits – Blake Shelton in for Kenny Loggins on the title song, karaoke kids taking on Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” – barely register.
Unlike Bacon, who had a double, Wormald does Ren’s angry dance himself in an abandoned warehouse. But Wormald is not the actor Bacon is. This crimps his chemistry with Hough, who has the indefinable spark that indicates star potential. Footloose 2011 is harmless as far as it goes, but on the dance floor and off it never goes nearly far enough.