A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this remake of the classic '80s dance movie is faithful to the Kevin Bacon original, which nowadays would be rated PG-13. There's plenty of language ("s--t," "a--hole," and more) and some sexual content (from jokes about threesomes and boners to a scene in which a young woman decides to lose her virginity), but nothing overtly graphic or that teens wouldn't hear walking around their schools. There's also a scene in which a small group of teens passes a joint around and then races buses on a dangerous track. But overall the movie's messages are positive -- that teenagers have a voice, that they can make a difference, and that they deserve to be heard.
What's the story?
After his mother dies of leukemia, Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves from Boston to live with his aunt and uncle in small-town Bomont, Georgia. A former gymnast and recreational dancer, Ren is shocked to discover that in the aftermath of a tragic accident, Bomont has a strictly enforced town-wide curfew on its teens and has made it illegal for underage adolescents to dance in public. Ren befriends football player Willard (Miles Teller) and grows attracted to the local preacher's daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough), but he keeps getting in minor trouble with authority. With nothing to lose, Ren decides to challenge the system to finally allow dancing.
Is it any good?
Many remakes are unnecessary or downright depressing, so there's an element of surprise when one is actually decent. Director Craig Brewer's (Hustle & Flow) take on the iconic '80s movie manages to be believably "new" while remaining quite faithful to the original -- from the overall storyline to some nearly shot-for-shot, line-by-line sequences. Brewer's updates, in fact, are all quite subtle -- the locations are different (Ren's home city is Boston instead of Chicago, to accommodate McCormack's native accent, and he moves to Georgia instead of Oklahoma), the cast now includes a more diverse group of students, the teens' dancing is more modern, and Ren is motherless, making him yet another underdog movie orphan you can't help but root to win.
But for the most part, everything else is familiar -- and for once, that's a good thing. Wormald has an elfin James Dean quality that makes him cute but not distractingly edgy or sexy. He's got a winning smile and amazing dancing skills (better than Kevin Bacon's), and his scenes teaching pal Willard (Teller channels the best of the late Chris Penn's performance) to boogie are again some of the best in the movie. Hough sheds her ballroom-dancing pro persona (although there's a joke thrown in just for Dancing with the Stars fans) to seem like a real actress, but her portrayal takes a backseat to Wormald and Teller's. Dennis Quaid's minister isn't as fire-and-brimstone intense as the original's John Lithgow, but his tone is just the right balance of conflicted and protective. While this remake may not be the cultural touchstone that Bacon's version became, it's toe-tapping fun for teens and nostalgic parents.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between "authority" and Ren. Is he rightfully accused as a troublemaker? When is it right to question authority? Should teens be allowed to complain about the rules and regulations imposed on them?
What's the difference between Ariel's relationship with Chuck and her relationship with Ren? Why does Ren tell her he won't kiss her at first? Teens: Do you think some people hook up just to make their exes angry? How is Ren different than the average teen guy?
Those familiar with the original movie can discuss the differences between the two and the ways the new one updated the story. How is the 2011 version faithful? How is it different? Which do you prefer?
- In theaters: October 14, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: March 6, 2012
- Cast: Dennis Quaid, Julianne Hough, Kenny Wormald
- Director: Craig Brewer
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, violence and language
For kids who love dancing
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.