If you haven’t seen it yet, the remake of the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show might have you shivering in antici…pation. The tribute, however, directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical), has received generally negative reviews since its Oct. 20 debut, and I can’t blame the critics.
While the producers used an almost identical script, the film (unnecessarily titled The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again) still felt utterly lacklustre. While the individual acting performances were generally acceptable, the thrilling songs that made the original such a hit were disappointing in the remake.
Two of the original film’s most iconic songs, “Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite,” were completely sapped of energy in the tribute. Gone were the exciting, daring falsettos from the original “Time Warp.” The sickening costumes, awful setting, and overcomplicated dancing were all misguided deviations from the Jim Sharman-directed original.
One of Ortega’s more interesting choices was to cast Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. While her performance was magnificent at times – for example, during the schmaltzy finale – often it was simply underwhelming. Lazy cinematography and an odd use of props severely stunted Cox’s rendition of “Sweet Transvestite,” particularly her boring entrance by way of an out-of-place hydraulic crane lift. She was more an imitation than an innovation of Tim Curry’s portrayal of Frank-N-Furter, despite having a lot of flexibility to shape her character.
Another problem with the film: It wasn’t live. Unlike other network reproductions, like Grease Live!, this new Rocky Horror Picture Show was pre-taped. An intrusive faux-audience cried out callbacks and performed fan rituals (throwing rice/toast/hot dogs in response to certain lines, wearing newsprint as a rain hat) on behalf of the real audience. This contradicted the traditional real-time authenticity of Rocky Horror, a major reason for the show’s continued success. The false excitement is not only confusing to Rocky Horror “virgins,” but also soul-crushing for old-timers.
Part of the allure of Grease: Live! was the cast’s ability to consistently offer quality performances throughout every song and bit of dialogue. It even went on to win five primetime Emmy awards – a level of prestige I doubt this new Rocky Horror will achieve. So, if it wasn’t live, and had minimal script changes, why did Fox produce this movie in the first place? The long black pauses between scenes – meant for advertisements – suggest: money.
Although there were several glaringly apparent problems with the production, it still had a few positive aspects. Adam Lambert’s rendition of “Hot Patootie Bless My Soul” was fantastic, and arguably better than the original. Reeve Carney’s portrayal of Riff-Raff wasn’t always perfect, but it was undoubtedly interesting and fun to watch. Ortega somehow managed to keep the running time shorter than the original.
Sal Piro, president of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club since 1977, was cast in a minor credited role – the wedding photographer. Ivy Levan’s “Science Fiction/Double Feature” intro was delightful, to say the least, and more accessible to new viewers compared to the original red lips.
Despite the film’s many faults, it was still a stimulating experience. Any Rocky Horror fan might appreciate the remake – despite the flaws, it isn’t terrible compared to remakes of other cult films (Ghostbusters). Remember: it’s not easy having a bad time – even frowning makes your face ache.
Editor’s note: Due to a miscommunication, reporter Will Pelletier watched Rocky Horror Picture Show and its remake back-to-back from the comfort of his own dorm room, instead of attending the viewing at the Vogue, as was originally intended. Our apologies to Will, for making him endure such an experience – obviously the request “Can you cover Rocky Horror?” was much too vague – and to the Vogue, for not including a story on its fabulously well-attended and mirthful, as usual, annual screening of the holiday classic.