MOVIES: 'Footloose,' 'Real Steel' and 'What's Your Number?'
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
As this remake begins, the small, Southern, bible-belt town of Bomont is grief-stricken over the tragic death of five local teenagers in a car accident after a party. Led by Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), the town council overreacts, setting a curfew for kids and banning all loud music and public dancing.
Three years later, following the death of his mother, Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormaid) moves from Boston to Bomont, settling in with his aunt (Kim Dickens) and uncle (Ray McKinnon). With a defiant spirit, Ren immediately catches the attention of Ariel (Julianne Hough), the rebellious daughter of overprotective Rev. Moore and his wife Vi (Andie MacDowell), incurring the wrath of Ariel's abusive boyfriend, Chuck Cranston (Patrick John Flueger). The subplot involving Ren's clumsy best friend, Willard (Miles Teller), who learns to dance to please his girlfriend Rusty (Ziah Colon), is charming.
Director Craig Brewer ("Hustle and Flow," "Black Snake Moan") has revised the familiar script with Dean Pitchford, who wrote the original screenplay, along with the lyrics for the title song. They've astutely duplicated Ren's angry warehouse dance, set now to the White Stripes's "Catch Hell Blues," and the "fake" prom finale in which the entire cast, led by Ren, moves toward the camera with the energetic cast in unison behind him.
Upping the ante this time, pro dancer-turned-actress Juliette Hough ("Burlesque") twice won "Dancing With the Stars" and acrobatic Kenny Wormald (MTV's "Dancelife") toured with Justin Timberlake. From choreographer Jamal Sims, there's a fresh, new hip-hop sequence at a drive-in movie theater and a country line-dancing number at an Atlanta club.
For the curious, in Herb Ross's original 1984 version, which occupied a lofty place among the dance films of the '80s, like "Dirty Dancing," "Flashdance" and "Fame," Ren was played by Kevin Bacon, who admitted to using body doubles for the dancing sequences, while Lori Singer was Ariel, John Lithgow was the preacher, and Rusty was a very young Sarah Jessica Parker.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Footloose" is a rockin' 7. It's toe-tapping adolescent angst.
Aimed at pre-teen boys, this inspirational action drama is set in 2020, when high-tech entertainment consists of 8-foot-tall, 2,000-pound robots brutally battling in boxing rings with their owners holding remote controls.
Scheming, bottom-feeding Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), is a former heavyweight boxer-turned-promoter who pieces together low-end bots from scrap metal for small-time, underground fights, working out of an old Dallas gym owned by his former girlfriend, Bailey (Evangeline Lilly from "Lost"). Suddenly saddled with an estranged 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo), whose mother recently died, insensitive, impatient Charlie is all-too-willing to sell him for the $100,000 he owes his creditors.
"You've been working with those robots so long, you've become one," Max's aunt Deborah (Hope Davis) observes, before departing for Europe.
But then, one night, while stealing scrap parts from a junkyard, Max tumbles down a precipice and discovers Atom, a battered, discarded, "generation two" sparring bot. Feisty and ferociously adept at bot-boxing electronics, smart-mouthed Max bonds with Atom, who has a special adjustment, called "the shadow mode," which allows the android to pantomime human movement. Predictably, abrasive, abusive Charlie eventually bonds with them both, as they train Atom for awesome bouts with bots like Ambush, Midas, Noisy Boy, two-headed Twin Cities and autonomous, constantly evolving Zeus. (Sugar Ray Leonard served as fight consultant).
Written by John Gatins, based on a story by Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven, and Richard Matheson's short story "Steel," which was made into a 1963 "Twilight Zone" episode, and directed by Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum"), it combines key elements from sci-fi films, like "Transformers," "E.T.," "Wall-E," "A.I." and "Star Wars," and underdog sports stories, like "Rocky," "Cinderella Man" and "The Champ." Wags have dubbed it "Real Steal," noting the all-too-obvious Dr. Pepper product placement.
Hugh Jackman oozes surliness, making young Dakota Goyo all the more charming as he assures endearing, blue-eyed Atom: "Don't worry, your secret's safe with me," never revealing what that bionic secret might be.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Real Steel" scores a family-friendly 6, despite its recycled Wii-redemption.
"WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER?"
Ever since the success of "Bridesmaids," there's been a rash of raunchy female comedies filled with scatological language. Now gals are comparing how many men they've slept with to determine their marriageability quotient -- or something like that.
In Boston, on the eve of her younger sister Daisy's (Ari Graynor) lavish wedding, Ally Darling (Anna Faris) reads a scientific study in a women's magazine that alleges that a woman who has slept with 20 or more men must have serious self-esteem issues and, as a result, has little chance of ever getting married. Having already slept with 19, she vows to re-visit all her past boy-friends to see if, perhaps, she could rekindle a flame with one of them before No. 20 dooms her to eternal spinsterhood.
"I'm not gonna sleep with one more guy until I'm sure he's the one," she declares.
To help her track down the guys, unlucky-in-love Ally enlists the aid of her promiscuous across-the-hall neighbor, Colin (Chris Evans), a struggling musician who's taken refuge in her apartment to escape his own romantic entanglements.
Ally's exes include British actor Martin Freeman, Anthony Mackie, Joel McHale, Thomas Lennon, Andy Samberg, Zachary Quinto, and an overweight slob she dubbed Disgusting Donald, played by Faris's real-life husband Chris Pratt. It culminates in Colin's observation, "What kind of guy cares about how many people you slept with, anyway?"
Derivatively written by TV sitcom veterans Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, based on Karyn Bosnak's novel, it's drenched with gender cliches and blandly directed by Mark Mylod, making it a pitifully lame and utterly predictable farce. Indeed, the movie's only redeeming grace is ditzy Anna Faris, the brilliantly talented comedienne from "Scary Movie," "Smiley Face" and "The House Bunny," along with Blythe Danner and Ed Begley, Jr. as Ally's divorced parents.
FYI: While publicizing this rom-com, Faris revealed that she'd bedded a total of five guys before marrying Chris Pratt ("Moneyball," "Captain America") in 2009.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "What's Your Number?" is a smutty 3, adding up to very little.