Chris Penn and Kevin Bacon, 1984
Miles Teller and Kenny Wormald, 2011
I wanted to compare and contrast the actors playing the same roles in each version of Footloose, but I didn’t have the space to do this in my review of the remake, so I thought I’d do it here. As many remakes as Hollywood is churning out these days, you’d be surprised how seldom I find exercises like this to be worth the trouble, but here it seemed like we might learn something. Maybe I’ll do this again for one of the zillions of remakes slated for our theaters in the future.
Role: Ren McCormack
Actors: Kevin Bacon vs. Kenny Wormald.
Verdict: As I mentioned in my review, this one isn’t much of a contest. Wormald is fine, but Bacon has the sort of magnetism that makes it impossible to look anywhere else. And he was so pretty. The remake was originally supposed to star Zac Efron. He wouldn’t have matched Kevin Bacon either. By the way, the character’s last name in the remake is spelled “MacCormack,” whereas in the original it’s “McCormack.” Yeah, I don’t care either.
Role: Ariel Moore
Actors: Lori Singer vs. Julianne Hough.
Verdict: Singer has her moments, especially when she’s standing on the railroad tracks screaming at the oncoming train. Still, it’s the Dancing With the Stars alumna who takes this one; she’s a harder-edged presence in a role that needs it. Fun bit of trivia: Julianne Hough’s brother Derek Hough portrayed Ren in the stage musical of Footloose when it debuted in London.
Role: Rev. Shaw Moore
Actors: John Lithgow vs. Dennis Quaid.
Verdict: Quaid seems a bit off his game here. We know he can play tormented characters (check him out in Far From Heaven), but his work here is fuzzy. Lithgow is a great deal sharper. When he stands up in front of his congregation and says “I come before you with a troubled heart,” you believe him.
Role: Willard Hewitt
Actors: Christopher Penn vs. Miles Teller.
Verdict: That’s right, we’ve got Penn and Teller here. I came to know Chris Penn as the portly character actor in the early 1990s in movies like Reservoir Dogs, Short Cuts, and True Romance, so I was shocked to see the guy was so lean and muscular in his youth. This is a tough one. Penn originated the role and Teller is copying a lot of his moves, but he does bring an energy to the part that even Penn didn’t have. Let’s call this a draw.
Role: Rusty (we don’t know her last name)
Actors: Sarah Jessica Parker vs. Ziah Colon.
Verdict: Parker in a landslide. Seeing her as this wisecracking girl who’s smarter than everyone else reminded me that she used to be really good at this acting thing. It also raised a chilling thought: Was Parker miscast in the role of Carrie Bradshaw? I think she might have been. Most of the wisecracks have been taken away from Rusty in the remake, so newcomer Colon is fighting a losing cause anyway.
Role: Vi Moore
Actors: Dianne Wiest vs. Andie Macdowell.
Verdict: Wiest is a far better actor, and two years after doing Footloose she won an Oscar for playing a completely different role in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. So I’m stunned to report that Macdowell wins this one. Wiest plays the role very properly, with diction that could cut glass. That’s not inappropriate to the character, but Macdowell’s take on the role — playing the preacher’s wife as a fundamentally sensible and down-to-earth person with some understated force — did more for me.