Fox’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016) doesn’t come close to the original 1975 cult classic, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. Through all the muck there were some highlights that redeem the TV special and make it watchable.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show began as a stage show and premiered in London in 1973. It later transitioned to the screen in 1975 and starred Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell. Repeated midnight viewings transformed the musical into a cult classic that is still very, very beloved to this day. Naturally, there would be controversy over a television remake, especially in light of the recent television musical remakes that are more or less received with mixed reviews.
The remake begins with an usherette (Ivy Levan) singing the first song, “Science Fiction,” as she ushers in moviegoers to the theatre to see Rocky Horror. The actual story then begins with the criminologist (Tim Curry), with the help of his butler (Jayne Eastwood), explaining the strange adventure of Brad (Ryan McCartan) and Janet (Victoria Justice). Recently engaged, Brad and Janet are out driving on a dark and stormy night when their tire blows. They decide to walk to an old castle they saw earlier down the road. A greasy and gaunt manservant named Riff Raff (Reeve Carney) welcomes them into the gothic building, where a celebration is happening. Magenta (Christina Milian), a maid, and Riff Raff lead the naïve couple into the party where they are confronted by the Transylvanians doing the Time Warp, a dance narrated by the criminologist. Then the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox), enters the picture and there is no going back for Brad and Janet.
Let’s start with the pros. Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan were far better than I expected either of them to be. Their voices were strong and their acting was so fun and campy that it played perfectly to the tone of the musical. The camp factor especially applies to McCartan, who completely owned his performance as Brad. I also thought Adam Lambert as Eddie and Ben Vereen as Dr. Scott did reasonably well for the same reasons. Tim Curry’s cameo was fun to watch and I was surprisingly not annoyed at his helpful butler, whose role was originated for this production to work around Curry’s inability to move due to stroke. Finally, the occasional cutbacks to the audience who entered to watch the movie in the beginning was both funny and clever. It was a great way to include the fanbase in the production.
Now for the cons. First of all, Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, while sounding like a good idea, was an overall disappointment. Her singing voice was fine, but she tried too hard trying to be just like Curry’s original performance. She would have been much better if she made the part her own while paying homage to Curry, not trying to replicate it. Reeve Carney’s Riff Raff was also disappointing, and mostly for the same reasons. He looked great, albeit too young, and his singing sometimes fit the mood. But he tried too hard to recreate Richard O’Brien’s performance and he failed. Christina Milian, on the other hand, didn’t seem like she was trying hard enough. Sometimes she would do an accent, but overall it was a very underwhelming performance. The music was also somewhat of an issue for me, as it came off as more modern when it needed to rock harder (like in “Time Warp” and “Hot Patootie”).
The biggest issue I will blame the movie for is doing what every other remake these days seems to do: it’s too afraid to take risks that could help define it as its own project in order not to alienate the fans. I still enjoyed it, though, and I would recommend it to others. The characters you want to see as completely over-the-top are underwhelming, but it’s still a fun and campy movie made with love.Rocky Horror is Flawed but Fun