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The movie has been receiving mixed reviews from critics, though many are praising the talents of Wormald and Hough, who follows up her film debut witih a supporting role in last year’s Burlesque with the remake of the 1984 movie that starred Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer.
In the movie, Hough stars as the wild daughter of a preacher in a town where dancing has been banned.
So what do the critics have to say about her first leading role?
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy praises the cast.
“The young cast members, all in their early-to-mid twenties, make things go down relatively easily,” he wrote, adding that “Hough reminds a bit of Jennifer Aniston with her hot bod and pleasant, slightly puffy face.”
He wasn’t the only one who likened her to Aniston: Jon Niccum of the Kansas City Star was among those who had a similar reaction.
“The appealing lead actors do their best to keep the wackiness grounded,” he wrote. “Hough — a pleasant cross between Jennifer Aniston and Miley Cyrus — is charmingly spunky.”
Chris Tookey of the U.K.’s Daily Mail wrote that she is “quite something” in her role.
“Blonde, blue-eyed and sinuous, she’s like the young Olivia Newton-John in Grease but with more convincing bad-girl attitude,” he wrote. “Facially, she looks like a younger, even prettier Jennifer Aniston. I feel we’ll be seeing more of her.”
The Associated Press’ Jake Coyle also likened Hough to the former Friends star.
Hough “resembles the younger sister of Jennifer Aniston,” he wrote. “Spending much of the film strutting in boots, she brings more sexiness to the movie.”
Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News added that Hough has an “undeniable star quality,” while Time’s Richard Corliss wrote that she “crawls into the roiling soul of a good girl trying her damnedest to be bad. ”
Meanwhile, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times noted that both Wormald and Hough are better dancers than thespians — but maybe that’s what filmmakers wanted.
“That current stars Wormald and Hough have stronger dancing than acting credentials is more in line with the kind of high-energy impact the newer version has set as its goal,” he wrote.
The Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez wrote that Hough does a good job with her role.
“Hough … pulls off the necessary feat of seeming genuinely unattainable to Ren at first, even though everyone knows from the moment they meet that they’ll end up together,” Rodriguez wrote.
On the other hand, Doug Wright of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News is a fan of Utah native Hough’s performance.
“Julianne Hough is simply dazzling as Ariel, the daughter of the local preacher,” he wrote. “Hough has elevated the role to heights never dreamed of back in ’84 when Lori Singer delivered an Ariel that proved to be the weakest link in the film. When the sparks begin to fly between Ren [Wormald] and Ariel, the screen simply catches fire.”
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Sean P. Means echoed that sentiment.
“Hough, in her first leading role in a film (after a supporting turn in Burlesque), exudes charm and sex appeal — though she’ll have to dig a little deeper if she wants to avoid Katherine Heigl’s career path of annoyingly lightweight romantic comedies,” he wrote.
However, Today.com’s Gael Fashingbauer Coooper was less impressed.
She wrote that Hough “doesn’t get as much of a chance to show off those expert steps as you’d think, and her character comes off as a bit bratty.”
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle calls Hough a “major asset.”
“This won’t come as news to anyone who saw the two-time Dancing With the Stars champion, but the young lady can dance,” he wrote. “She also has a quality common to people who go on to big careers: She looks like five other actresses, but none in particular, and it feels as if you’ve seen her before, even if you haven’t. Hough is 23 and plays an 18-year-old as if she were in her early 30s, bringing in notes of gravity, weariness, despairing recklessness and even self-disgust. Somehow it works.”
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