| Co-writer/director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) delivers a contemporary reboot of the 1984 classic film that made a star out of Kevin Bacon. Ren MacCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald) is transplanted from Boston to the small fictional southern town of Bomont where he experiences a heavy dose of culture shock.
A few years prior, the community was rocked by a tragic automobile accident that killed five teenagers after a night out and the town council headed by Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) responded by implementing ordinances that placed a curfew on minors and prohibited public gatherings that included consumption of alcohol or drug usage, loud music and lewd or lascivious dancing.
Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban and falls in love with the minister’s free-spirited, rebellious daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough from “Burlesque”).
A whole new generation of youngsters can kick up their heels and have fun watching this movie. This upbeat, feel good flick is bookended by the enthusiastic cast singing and dancing to the famous title song by Kenny Loggins.
The movie addresses the trial-and-error child-rearing efforts that parents go through to keep their kids safe from a world filled with evil, temptation and danger. The high school teens just want the freedom to experience all that life has to offer.
The supporting cast includes Andie MacDowell as the reverend’s supportive and silent wife; Patrick John Flueger as Ariel’s physically abusive stock car driver boyfriend; Ray McKinnon as Ren’s uncle; and Miles Teller (“Rabbit Hole”) as Ren’s best friend.
The casting choices are perfect. This is a star-making turn for both Wormald and Hough (pronounced “Huff”). Zac Efron of “High School Musical” fame was originally cast as Ren, but he opted out in March 2009.
Wormald began dancing at age 6 and has won numerous competitions. He makes an immediate impression when he steps off a Greyhound bus with a well-coiffed hairstyle, shades and a million dollar smile. The girls in the audience will be instantly smitten by this handsome hunk. He lets it all hang out with an amazing dance routine complete with gymnastics at an abandoned warehouse.
Hough is a country music singer and a professional dancer. She won “Dancing with the Stars” in seasons 4 and 5 with different amateur male partners. She got the plum role of Ariel over better known Hollywood actresses auditioning for the part including Hayden Panettiere, Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes. She is sexy and attractive with lipstick to
match her red boots. Her wild daredevil spirit is expressed in her skin tight jeans or skimpy dresses that leave nothing to the imagination.
Quaid brings a serious dramatic side to his role as an overprotective father. Teller offers comedic relief as the awkward, flat-footed sidekick. He shines in a cute montage where he learns to dance accompanied by Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” emanating out of a Barbie boom-box.
Choreographer Jamal Sims has strung together several of the best dance segments ever staged in movie musical history. The pent-up frustration the kids feel finds a welcome release through all the bumping and grinding to a soundtrack of revamped versions of the classic tunes from the original. The music is an eclectic blend of country, blues, hip-hop and metal. You can’t get enough of the fantastic dancing that includes ballroom, country line and hip-hop.
The movie was shot in six small towns in Georgia and features R.L. Osborne High School in Marietta.
The movie’s only misstep is the rivalry between Ren and Ariel’s older redneck boyfriend. This subplot includes two unnecessary scenes. One is a brutal brawl before the final dance and the other is a demolition derby/race with tricked-out school buses.
The movie brings out some touching and heartfelt emotions. You won’t be able to resist bobbing your head and tapping your toes. The 113-minute running time passes by quickly as you become totally absorbed in this crowd-pleasing musical extravaganza.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"