Alamo Drafthouse Events
Nobody can ever claim the Alamo Drafthouse doesn't know how to pull off a fun event built around the love of movies. This power to get an audience pumped was proved once again last night, with a special Girlie Night sneak preview presentation of the Footloose remake. From a themed drink offering to special guests, the night was a celebration of all things Footloose, both new and old.
The evening started on a toe-tapping note as eager moviegoers (some who had been waiting in line for hours) were treated to the Footloose theme song pumped into the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar's lobby via a creative server's iPhone over the PA. Then, in a very personal gesture, director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) and the new Ren McCormack, Kenny Wormald, shook the hands of each and every attendee, personally thanking him or her for coming out. Inside the theater, the audience found at their seats a card detailing "The Texas Two-Step," a drink composed of local (512) Wit beer topped with Main Root Ginger Brew.
Girlie Night host Sarah Pitre took the stage, introducing and welcoming the film's star, Kenny Wormald, and director Craig Brewer (who immediately referred to the Alamo Drafthouse as "one of the best theaters in the world," a compliment he would pay several times over the course of the night). As is the case with these special Alamo events, a pre-movie contest was involved and when it comes to Footloose there's nothing better than a dance-off. Several audience members took to the stage, received a little bit of advice from Kenny (who has been dancing since he was six) and in the end, the winner was the lone guy in the group of contestants.
Before the movie rolled, Brewer (who has always been a down-to-earth, likeable guy) addressed the audience explaining and proving his love and knowledge of the original film. He explained that anyone involved with the making of the movie, from cast to crew, had to love the original before being hired onto the production. Testing the audiences knowledge of the original film, he immediately endeared himself to a room full of potential critics, many of whom were quite obviously diehard fans of the original and skeptical of a remake. After a quick group pose with everyone in the theater wearing pink "Dance Your Ass Off" shirts, the movie played.
So: how is the movie? Quite good, actually. Sticking to the core of what works in the first film (which, if one is honest, is just about everything), Brewer doesn't change much except for a few dynamics that actually make a bit more sense. Certain characters, like Reverend Shaw Moore (John Lithgow in the original, Dennis Quaid in the remake) and Uncle Wes, are rebalanced and not just arbitrarily so. Making the dance ban work for audiences was going to be a challenge, and Brewer gives reason for it with a tragedy very early in the story.
Since there are deeply personal stakes set from the very beginning, it's less about religion itself (though that is still a big factor) and more about religion as an excuse to hold on to out-of-date sensibilities. With characters slightly re-tooled and none of the more brutal elements of the original (teenage sex, drinking, drugs and abuse) watered down, Brewer sets the stage for what we all love about Footloose—drama and dancing. And it's an infectious combination that still works. Footloose is a remake that both honors the original and has fun being its own song and dance.
A post-show Q&A started with Wormald and Brewer very appropriately discussing awkward dance stories. Brewer in particular drew many laughs from his admission that he "vogued" at his high school dances. Of all the director's telling anecdotes (and there were many; Brewer is very talkative but always interesting), the story of how he became attached to the project was the most enlightening. After passing on the project twice because he didn't care for the script, Brewer rethought his stance and made a deal with Paramount. If he was allowed to make Footloose as Footloose was meant to be—that is to say, not make any major changes that would disrupt the core of the story or leave out any of the more controversial elements—he would do it and the studio agreed.
Kenny, on the other hand, was much more quiet through the Q&A. He did talk about choking back a few tears, along with co-star Julianne Hough, when they realized they were, in fact, really making Footloose. He also spoke about being nervous about Kevin Bacon seeing it, hoping that if Bacon ever does get the chance he will will enjoy Wormald's performance as much as Wormald enjoyed the process.
At the end of the evening, the most obvious sign of the success of the night was the compliments each audience member showered upon Brewer and Wormald before going into his or her question during the Q&A. One woman even went so far as to say she had fully expected to hate the movie (as undoubtedly many across the world feel right now as they wait for the film's release). At the Alamo Drafthouse last night, though, fears were alleviated, everyone kicked off whatever proverbial shoes they had on and had a wonderful, film-celebrating evening befitting the world's greatest movie theater.
Footloose (2011) from Paramount Pictures opens October 14 nationwide.