I never saw the original 1984 Kevin Bacon morality dance off so I’m looking at this new version starring some of the best looking people in that demographic, as a standalone. There’s a lot of dancing, a lot of parental control and youthful acting out.
Rebellion. There is underage lust but little action, these kids are all show. There’s a go-for-broke school bus battle and there are plenty of brawls, pitting alpha dog against newcomer alpha dog. Just kids being kids.
This is precisely what the local Georgia minister Rev. Moore (Dennis Quaid) doesn’t want. He’s a man informed by the enforced local moralism of generation ago when burning rock and roll records scared the kids into behaving. Or aimed to. He wants the kids to be home by ten p.m., eleven on weekends, and to refrain from dancing, acting lewdly or playing loud, offensive music.
It seems outrageously dated but for all I know there are still pockets of American civilization where this is normal. His anxiety appears to stem from a tragic car accident in which five youngsters, including his son, were killed on their way home from a dance. So ban dancing. Ban fun. Right.
And when you’re Ren (Kenny Wormald) a new kid in town from Boston, who has lost his mother to leukemia and must start over again in his uncle’s car barn, well, it’s harsh and lonely. Especially since Ren is a dancer. He acts out a little; nervous locals take it for a lot.
The town authorities, especially the Reverend, immediately have their backs up because he dares to bring in a new ways of thinking and behaving, and he plays music loudly.
Ren’s getting it from all sides because the prettiest girl at school Ariel (Julianne Hough) is flirting with him pretty heavily, raising the ire of her pugilistic boyfriend who bears a strong resemblance to a moving truck. He has a posse that means Ren no good.
Ariel is seriously acting out in part due to the loss of her idealized brother and her father’s vice grip on her and the town’s youngsters. Hough has a nice arc to play, as her character responds to this new kid in town and begins to see things more clearly.
Andie McDowall plays Ariel’s mother Vi, a bit of a milquetoast until she’s just had enough of the Rev and delivers a crucial speech in defense of the kids and their right to partay.
I would have expected to see more dancing. The dance cast is exceptional: Hough was a principle on Dancing with the Stars and Wormald is a prize winning hoofer. There aren’t that many dance sequences, and when the final scene is done, there’s a sense of disappointment that there won’t be more.
The film is entertaining, dramatic and very pretty to look at. Remake or not, it works.
Visit the movie database for more information.
35mm drama, music
Written by Dean Pitchford, Craig Brewer
Directed by Craig Brewer
Opens: Oct 14