Rocky Gets A Remake, but is Devoid of the Campy Magic of the Original
Oh, Lou Adler. How could you?
It is apparent by the abysmal remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) that Execute Producer Lou Adler could not do the time warp again and recapture the magic from four decades ago. In fact by the tone downed, cleaned up and slick prime time presentation, it is clear that FOX television is out of touch with what The Rocky Horror Picture Show is all about.
In 1975, the LGBT community was just beginning to establish themselves. It was a time of being wild and transgressive. Not only was this reflected in the lifestyle and social movements but also in fiction, cinematography, and art. The original production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show embraced that cultural and social movement. The film, based on the stage play, was subversive, campy and bawdy, at times raunchy, and challenged artistic boundaries with its characters and underlining theme.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show 2016 remake is directed by Kenny Ortega, of Disney’s High School Musical trilogy. It features Nickelodeon and Disney stars Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan, respectively, as Janet and Brad. The chemistry between the two felt awkward, like they were brother and sister, and not a couple in love. I understand that FOX television was attempting to reach a new generation of fans with their sanitized Disneyesque version featuring actors who have relevance to a younger audience. But what the Hell? Apparently no FOX executive has ever been to a theater screening of the original, for if they had they would have seen that the audience is made up of a diverse range of ages — in cosplay costumes — coming out to participate.
The casting of LGBT activist and actor Laverne Cox as the show’s sex crazed, unhinged scientist, is less than inspiring. Tim Curry’s original rendition of demented scientist Frank-N-Furter, the “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” had the right amount of malice, mischievousness and bawdiness. Cox, however, never exudes sex or danger in her portrayal, and as a transgender woman, never achieves the gravelly bass tone singing of Curry’s Frank-N-Furter, who is after all, a hypersexual and bisexual, cross-dressing male. Cox’s singing “Sweet Transvestite” in a tight fitting, sequined red dress with her ample cleavage revealed was ludicrous.
Even though the acting is stiff, the musical numbers are over produced, and the dancing is tightly choreographed — loosing the charm of the original dance numbers — the show isn’t a total loss. Reeve Carney is very watchable as Riff-Raff, Frank-N-Furter’s creepy handyman, paying tribute to Richard O’Brien by getting some of the nuances of what O’Brien did in the original role. Adam Lambert is great as Eddie, however the mix on the musical number did wash out Lambert’s vocal on more than one occasion. Best performance — because he’s a phenomenal actor — Tim Curry, who was cast as the Narrator. Although Curry’s Narrator role was trimmed down from the original film — he had a stroke several years ago — his facial gestures alone during his on screen time were worth the price of admission for myself. He even gave the eyebrow raise, as he did with his original Frank-N-Furter character.
There is something indelibly endearing about the misfit cast of the original film, most of whom were just starting out their film careers. Everything just clicked and you can see the fun and camaraderie the cast was having during filming, because it shows on screen. The original is an entertaining today as it was forty years ago. This is because at its core the film has heart and has an unabashed approach to its storytelling. This is why so many continue to pack midnight theater showings or watch it on television, and buy it on Blu-ray and DVD.