I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m pretty sure I saw Footloose in the movie theater in 1984. What I can be certain about is that it has been a mainstay in my life ever since, always popping up on TV at an appropriate time.

I probably didn’t question a the idea of a town outlawing dancing. Over the years it has grown quaint and remained believable. No internet. No cable. No cellphones. You’re in a remote town. The sheer lack of accessibility to pop culture, music and what kids are doing in the big city never made me question the teens of the town accepting the rules.

When I saw a remake of Footloose coming out, I thought it would be impossible to prop up the notion that kids would live under this law with having access to what’s going on in the world. Unless the town of Bomont had been moved to Mars and even then, it’s going to be a tough sell. And if they did manage it, the community would run the risk coming off like the nutters from that Westboro Baptist Church. And who wants to sit around watching those people for two hours?

Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) had to have seen the same red flags because they answered those questions and solved those problems within the first couple minutes of the movie.

In Footloose 1984 we never saw the crash. We heard about it and they showed us the bridge, but we never saw the crash that killed those kids, sneaking home to Bomont. In Footloose 2011, they smack you in the teeth with it. It’s not gory, but it is jarring and vicious. It sits you up in your seat and makes you listen real hard to the “sermon” Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) delivers at  the county council meeting that establishes a list of laws aimed at protecting the youths of the town, one of which is to outlaw public dancing by minors.

OK. I’ll believe it. It’s not that these kids have the internet and cable and all the vices of 2011. That’s not really the point. This accident sent a wave of despair washing over the town and they clamored to find anything that would build the walls high enough to prevent it from every happening again. The kids accepted it. I accepted it.

Now… LET’S DANCE!

I feel as though I’m betraying the 1980s. I should be standing along side Kevin Bacon in solidarity, defying any attempt to tread on such hallowed ground. NO! When Footloose was made, it was made perfect. You’re just trying to MTV-it up, sex it up and make a buck. How dare you!

The 2011 version quickly disarmed me. I relaxed and watched. “Ah crap… this is pretty good.”

Cast from its perfected mold, parts were filed down and others were sharpened. There was some parts that were homage and followed exactly the curves of your form. Other parts were changed and, for the most part, changed for the better. It wasn’t just a case of bringing the story forward 27 years (sweet lord… 27 years?) Characters and relationships were adjusted, changed and, I’m sorry Chris Penn, improved.

Chris Penn’s Willard was a lovable lunk. Miles Teller’s Willard was lovable and funny. He was snappy and pretty much anytime he opened his mouth, he stole the show. You lost a little bit of tho oafish dance training, but you gained a lot more. “You got them waitresses walking around with Jager shots between their boobies? Well, you should.” That’s funny.

This Ren McCormack’s mother died and that’s how he found himself moving from Boston (along with his overdone Boston accent) to Bomont to live with his uncle and aunt. His uncle from 1984 was a bit of a pill. He towed the town line and didn’t really stick up for Ren. Here, his Uncle Wes (played by Ray McKinnon who I will forever give props to for playing Reverend Smith in Deadwood) played much more of a role. He both came to Ren’s defense, standing up to Shaw, and he provided more of Ren’s story.

He gave a glimpse into what Ren went through with his mother’s cancer. It translated into an understanding of what was driving Ren and his appreciation for suffering. Shaw lost a son. Ren lost his mother. One was sudden. One was drawn out. Still, they both had similar perspectives and that made it harder for Shaw to dismiss Ren.

A remake of Footloose did provide opportunity to reexamine several things about the original that always stuck with me. For example, Aerial (Julianne Hough)… why do we like her? Do we like her? I wouldn’t call either version of her slutty. And I also wouldn’t call either version of her a good catch. Sure she had a tough time with losing her brother, a subsequent strained relationship with her father and those things bounced her around. Still, she seemed reckless in a number of ways. Both 1984 Tom and 2011 Tom thought Ren was too good for her. No. I don’t like her. I don’t like that she’s the girl he defends.

It also made you think about the dancing. Footloose 1984, one of the best dance movies every made. It is. That’s just fact. However, living in a vacuum in nowhere’s America in 1984, how did that dude learn at the end  to breakdance so well? Sure, dancing is innate, but some of those moves had to be taught. Everyone, for not having been allowed to dance for much of their formative dancing years, seemed to have a pretty good grasp of how to move and put on a show. It always bugged me. That’s no comment on the movie, really. It just has always been with me. This is my first opportunity to say it.

At least in 2011, they have access to all the media that would give instruction for dancing, the internets and things. Though, the kind of dancing those kids were doing now probably should have been outlawed. That is a lot off booty in the air for only being in high school (“Harumph,” says 2011 Tom. “That’s so hot,” says 1994 Tom. “I bent my Wookiee,” says 1984 Tom.)

Here’s where 1984 wins out. The dancing seemed a bit more natural. 2011 seems a little too much like they wanted to make another Step Up movie, but didn’t want to make another Step Up movie, but the story wins out. They weren’t ever intending to make mini-music videos in 1984. It may have happened. But, 2011 looked expressly like a music video.

1984 had a good story and good dance. 2011 had a good story and dance we’ve seen plenty of other places these days. Both had great music. KENNY LOGGINS! 2011 brought back all the gems from 1984, but as covers. It was great. I absolutely enjoyed listening to those songs with new spins. They are happy songs and I’m supremely happy that they stuck with them and didn’t over do the renditions.

So, I’m sorry 1980s. Footloose 2011 was good. Not better. No… don’t think I’m saying that. I’m just saying it stood on its own.

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