I haven't been too keen on the idea of 80s film remakes since the new Karate Kid disappointed so much, but I must say that the remake of Footloose, that cinematic hymn to teenage joie de vivre, has restored my faith. All the best scenes from the original, notably the 'angry dance' (parodied so delightfully by Flight of the Conchords), Ren teaching Willard a few killer moves in a field and that brilliant final dance routine, as well as the most memorable tunes from the original, are reproduced carefully and without unwise attempts at 'improvement' to violate our pleasurable nostalgia. Changes to the dance routines are subtle - sneakers become Converse, elements of street dance are woven in together with line dancing sequences, but otherwise the rhythms and footwork, and even the clothes are wonderfully reminiscent of the best bits of the original.
At the same time, parts of the plot that were skimmed over in the 80s (e.g. the deaths that led to the small town bans on music and dancing) are given a little more depth and grittiness this time around (only a little - 'The Pianist' it ain't); Julianne Hough's Ariel is considerably more memorable as the preacher's rebellious daughter than, um, what's her name's, and if it isn't heretical to say so, Kenny Wormald's Ren is way more believable as a moody but attractive incomer than Kevin Bacon's ever was.
1984 ................ 2011
And there's yet more to satisfy us 21st century viewers: the women in the town have become more feisty and outspoken, Ren has acquired a supportive uncle to replace his mother, who has died in this version and thereby turned into the very reason for Ren's lonely moodiness - suddenly you realise that it never was all that believable that he came to live in a small town in the sticks with his mother. Of course she died, and that's why he had to stay with his uncle - now it makes sense. In short, the whole thing works really well, and is bundles of fun.
Without wanting to look into this too deeply, I do find myself interested by my own gut reaction to these remakes of films I enjoyed in younger life. I guess I retain an affection for the originals partly because I remember watching them with people I loved, because we laughed at the corny bits together and felt good at the feel-good parts. I want those feelings again, so I re-watch the old film, or am drawn to watch the new version. If I'm honest, my disappointment when the remake doesn't produce the right feelings is totally over the top. I kind of feel the same when I have to worship using unfamiliar forms - I learnt to worship using the 1980 Alternative Service Book, and there's a bit of me that compares everything we do in church to those experiences in the first 20 years of my faith. If what we do deviates too far from it, whether it's forward to Common Worship or back towards the Book of Common Prayer, part of me is too busy missing the familiar to be able to appreciate the new. At the same time I'm happier with the completely new than I am with something that seems like an imperfect rehash of something I once loved. But perhaps the very best liturgy is that which subtly retains the rhythms and the mood of the original, whilst giving it new depth and relevance.
Anyway. I liked Footloose. But please don't let them mess with Top Gun.