In 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show crash landed on planet Earth, gaining momentum as one of, if not the biggest cult classic in cinematic history. Now, 41 years later, it still graces many a midnight movie, even as FOX brings a revamped version to prime time television under the direction of Kenny Ortega (Hocus Pocus, High School Musical), giving us The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again.
What They Got Right
I assume the first and biggest challenge the producers faced was who in all the worlds and universes could play the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who was most gloriously played in the original film by the irreplaceable Tim Curry. Curry brought a particular charisma that had never been seen before on the silver screen to the original film, leaving rather large shoes – platform heels, as it were – to fill. Enter Laverne Cox, who has become an icon in her own right rather quickly since her debut on the Netflix hit Orange Is The New Black. Cox brings a different kind of charisma to her version of Frank-N-Furter. Her execution of the vocal and choreography work is great – something I’ve seen other reviews tear apart. What made the original so great was that each character had character: their vocals weren’t AutoTune perfect, they were different, which is what Cox brings to her performance, keeping her from seeming like a Tim Curry impersonator. Though Frank-N-Furter is seen as a female, Cox’s vocal range can still hit the low, staccato notes that Curry did.
The cast surrounding the Doctor proves equally capable, especially Ryan McCartan as Brad Majors and Victoria Justice as Janet. McCartan navigates gracefully through his dialogue with a refreshing change in pace and delivery while staying true to the skittishness Barry Bostwick brought to Brad in the original. Similarly, Justice stays pretty true to Janet’s big-eyed looks, piercing voice and unassuming ditziness, and her singing voice is not as shrill as Susan Sarandon’s, which gives a nice break from her high-pitched “Oh!’s” sprinkled throughout.
As for the aliens, Riff-Raff’s peculiar mannerisms are captured nicely by Reeve Carney, while Magenta (Christina Milian) seems sort of forgettable and Annaleigh Ashford breathes in a bit of modern deadpan rebel to Columbia.
I truly enjoyed and admired the creativity of the revamped introduction of ‘Science Fiction/Double Feature’, which ties in the audience participation aspect cult fans around the world have come to love. Ivy Levan plays an usherette, who sings the iconic opening song as she walks around the movie theatre aptly called The Castle preparing for the screening of the show we, too, are about to watch, and dons bright red lipstick in homage to Patricia Quinn’s – who played Magenta in the original – iconic red lips.
Many fans of the original were worried about how censorship was going to play a role in the adaptation coming to primetime broadcast television. Well, fear not, as there’s very little removed from the movie, give or take a few curse words. Even the pool kissing orgy made it into the cut.
What They Got Wrong
Missing Iconic Moments
One of my favorite moments in the original film is the first time we see Frank-N-Furter in the elevator with his heels stomping to the beat before turning around to a shocked Brad and Janet asking, “How do you do?” That was the moment we knew he was not like anyone else – he was different and otherworldly, and we were left wondering what was under that vampiric cape. As Cox begins her entrance, she’s dancing and tossing her cape around, which loses a bit of the shock and mysteriousness. While some of my favorite moments weren’t to my liking that doesn’t mean they didn’t nail other iconic moments, like:
If the choreography wasn’t for a Rocky Horror Picture Show remake, it would be excellent. But, it was and so it missed the mark. Of course, there’s a comedy that goes hand-in-hand with Rocky Horror but some of the adapted comedic moments, often done during dancing numbers, comes off as childish and cartoon-like – something you might see during one of Kenny Ortega’s High School Musical movies. Perhaps it’s the purist in me, but I didn’t want an upgraded version of the Time Warp.
It’s rather bittersweet to watch a remake of such a cult classic, especially with Tim Curry filling the role of the narrator (I still tear up when I see him since he had a stroke in 2013). But, nevertheless, with a bit of a mind flip, you’re into the time slip.