The Rocky Horror Picture Show Review: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
It is hard not to nitpick FOXs The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. After all, the original is a beloved classic, one that I have seen a zillion times, and I bet you have seen a zillion times, too. Little things caught my attention: Columbia wore a tutu instead of hot pants. Their steps to “Time Warp” were different. Magenta’s hair wasn’t as fluffy. But once I accepted that things are going to be different, and I let the music take me (some of the arrangements were a little different, but the songs are so infectious it is impossible not to sing along), I realized that, if RHPS was going to be remade, you couldn’t ask for a better cast.
Just in case there is someone out there who isn’t familiar with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it is about virginal couple Brad and Janet, whose car breaks down on the way to share news of their engagement with their former professor. They walk the road for help and come across a big, gothic castle where a party is going on. The pair encounter mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter, her aliens from Transsexual, Transylvania, and her newest creation, Rocky Horror.
My biggest issue with this new Rocky Horror Picture Show is Laverne Cox, stepping into Tim Curry’s iconic role of Frank-N-Furter. I love Laverne Cox. I think she is a fantastic actress and she does a phenomenal job in the role. But having a woman play the sweet transvestite changes a lot of the gender dynamics. For starters, she isn’t a transvestite. She is transgendered. Huge difference, one that I think FOX executives overlooked. While I think it is admirable that FOX gave the role to a trans woman, especially since the film is about skewing traditional gender roles, in my mind she is a woman, playing a woman, and it makes it less transgressive: A female doctor taking mostly male lovers and dressing in “gender appropriate” clothing.
I want to reiterate, though, that I thought Laverne Cox did a wonderful job in the role, and honestly, if the movie had to be remade, I couldn’t imagine anyone who would have been better suited. I just think that maybe if there was a gender swap in the lead role, some of the other roles could have been gender-swapped as well. I actually thought that most of the cast was pretty great, especially Victoria Justice as Janet. She is a better singer than Susan Sarandon, and less screechy.
FOX’s Rocky Horror Picture Show tries too hard to be self-reflexive. Set up as a movie being watched by an audience, every once in a while we cut back to them for “audience participation” moments: lighters and newspapers and toilet paper. For those who have never been to a shadow cast performance, this will probably be confusing, and for fans in the know, this is jarring. It took me out of the moment. Plus, they didn’t hit all the fan cues. Most notably, there was no toast.
Originally The Rocky Horror Picture Show was billed as a live-stage show, to capitalize on the popularity of NBC‘s live theatrical performances and to bring it back to its theatrical roots (originally, it premiered as a London stage show, titled “The Rocky Horror Show”). It quickly turned into a pre-taped theatrical staging, but by the version I saw, it was essentially a remake of the film: plenty of cuts and some light special effects. This would have been fine, but there was no consistency to it. The first half felt like a theatrical staging. The dance numbers had fewer people and were restrained to a small section of “stage.” Frank-N-Furter’s grand entrance wasn’t in an elevator, but off a cherry picker rolled in by some stage hands. Later on, the staging grew more expansive, felt more like the film.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is a solid effort. Taken on its own, it is an enjoyable two hours of television. Rocky Horror wasn’t something that needed a remake; the original still holds up well. If you have never seen Rocky Horror, there is nothing wrong with FOX’s adaptation – but please, do yourself a favor and watch the original first.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is premiering on Thursday, October 20 on FOX.