The '80s remake craze kicked into overdrive this past weekend, with the release of Footloose and The Thing. Both are unnecessary given the quality and fondness in which the originals are held, but Footloose proves to be the rare exception to the rule on remakes. As directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), the new Footloose is one smart cookie. It honors the original, while deftly modernizing the story of teen rebel stuck in small town that bans dancing. Kenny Wormald (a former back-up dancer for Justin Timberlake) and Dancing with the Stars' Julianne Hough overcome their limited acting background and show themselves to be gifted, captivating performers. Brewer has a real eye for the small details that color the small Southern setting, and he wisely includes the best bits of the Kevin Bacon version (especially the "Let's Hear It for the Boy" training montage and the "Angry Dance"). Dare I say, Footloose 2011 actually improves upon the original. Don't be fooled by the misleading ads which make it look like just another Step Up-type film. Footloose is exuberant, toe-tapping fun, with honest dramatic moments, and Kenny Loggins' title tune has aged extremely well. I liked it a lot.
As for The Thing, well it is as stupid a remake as Footloose is smart with its source material. In fact, the new Thing is actually a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie. It's a half-assed prequel though, because after the first 40 minutes, it just degenerates into a scene-for-scene redo of the original. It tries to have its cake and eat it too. But what made Carpenter's film so effective is that it was less about the creature scares, and more about the paranoia and distrust that sets in among isolated individuals in a remote, snowy location. The kills were spaced out for maximum dramatic tension. This new Thing tosses all of those assets out the window. It tries to up the creature ante and go for the jugular in every scene. Gone is the pervading sense of dread. The new Thing is over-reliant on CGI, leaving nothing to the imagination. And while some of the images are freaky cool, the movie ultimately ends up playing like just another pale imitation of Alien. You can (and should) skip it.
Footloose: ***1/2 out of 5.
The Thing: ** out of 5.