Starring: Julianne Hough, Kenny Wormald, Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell, and Miles Teller
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 113 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves from Boston to Bomont, a rural town in the South of the US, where life for him is very different from what it was in the big-city. The local pastor of Bomont (Dennis Quaid), The Rev. Shaw Moore, has joined with the town’s councillors to support laws that prohibit dancing and loud music, and the minister is on the Council to try to represent what he thinks is morally good for the town. Ren disagrees strongly. He challenges the town’s laws, and gets Bomont dancing again. In energizing the town, however, he complicates matters by falling in love with the minister’s daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough), much to the resentment of her father, with whom Ariel does not have an easy relationship. The main theme of the 1984 movie revolved around a city teenager who moves to a town that has outlawed something all the youth in the town want, and the same theme runs through this movie.
The movie is essentially a dance film, set in dramatic mould, and its choreographed routines don’t disappoint. The dancing is creative, energetic and lively. Produced in the genre of “Flashdance” (1983), “Dirty Dancing” (1987), and “Fame” (1980, 2009), it presents dance to another generation. The director, Craig Brewer, describes his film, as “we’ve (now) got more sex and tense moments”. Translated, that means more bumps, grinds and sexy moves, with a solid dose of sexual tension thrown in for good measure. There are two main goals. The movie has to please those who are devoted to the original film, but also it has to move the original forward by embracing dance numbers in contemporary ways. The two lead characters (Julianne Hough, and Kenny Wormald) do their own dancing, and their routines are creative and fresh. The film achieves its two main goals well – it is faithful to the original, and modern in look. Kenny Wormald, in particular, is a dancer, who shows some unbelievable foot-work, and, when he moves, the enthusiasm created by his dancing is infectious. Miles Teller is delightful as Ren’s best friend, Willard, who discovers the joy of dancing.
The movie has been made for the adolescent market, and there are familiar social themes that have sold adolescent movies in the past, and will continue to appeal. Youth have “attitude” that needs to be understood. Bomont is ultra-conservative and needs to loosen up. And the teenagers in the town are looking for someone to lead them in their rebellion against authority. For them, loud music and dancing have universal appeal that should never be repressed. Ren becomes their leader, and he uses the Bible to illustrate his point rather intelligently to the town councillors.
The film is not dramatically intense in the way that “A Chorus Line” (1985) was. It pursues no serious philosophies of life other than that the joy of dancing should be allowed, its plot line is predictable and relatively routine, and the acting is mostly subservient to the sound track. The romancing couple cement their attraction through dance. The pastor is re-united happily with his rebellious daughter, without losing his principles. And the town of Bomont is a much happier place for trusting its youth.
The film fills the screen with adolescent angst, catchy music and good dancing. In these respects, it entertains, the choreography being especially good. The movie will undoubtedly please teenagers, who go to see it. There is dancing for the young, drama to please the adults, and the elderly will have no need of hearing aides to catch the movie’s soundtrack.
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