You know what no one ever asked for? A Rocky Horror Picture Show remake. The whole point is to have the one movie that everyone agrees to watch at midnight in the dark, cheering and jeering the whole way. But this plastic, perfect version Fox drummed up to get musical lovers and Halloween fanatics to watch but did they manage to recreate a classic or did they shit on a beautiful legacy?
The best part of this whole endeavors is Laverne Cox, who is basically perfect for this role. She has a great vocal range and some really solid training that shows in her performances. Watching her seduce people, darting around the scene in costume is honestly a delight. While she doesn’t quite have sincerity of Tim Curry from the original but she is incredibly dynamic and funny, with great chemistry with both Victoria Justice’s Janet and Ryan McCartan’s Brad who are both good.
Neither Reeve Carney nor Adam Lambert thrilled me with their acting, and if I were to pick out two roles to recast, it would be theirs. Christina Milan doesn’t have much to do but she’s a little overly manic, and Annaleigh Ashford is a solid Columbia, but doesn’t especially stand out. Ben Vereen was a surprisingly fun Dr. Scott, and fit his role the best. Bless Tim Curry for agreeing to do this and even sing a little bit at the end. His bits were just lovely and honestly, including him was such a smart move.
Some of the songs managed to retain some of the same charm, but there’s quite a few that get mangled. For example, Ivy Levan’s gorgeous version of Double Feature/Science Fiction deserves to be heard, as well as Laverne Cox’s Sweet Transvestite and Make You A Man. I actually prefer Staz Nair’s rendition of Sword of Damocles over Trevor White’s (the singing voice for Peter Hinwood), and Ben Vereen gives a refreshing performance of Eddie. But if your favorites include Hot Patootie, Superheroes, Rose Tint My World, Planet Schmanet Janet, Don’t Dream It, Dammit Janet, and even The Time Warp, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan have good voices but it’s more like the composition itself was the big problem with their numbers. The bigger question is why cast Christina Milan if she doesn’t get to sing any of the songs? She’s not known for her acting, as we see very clearly.
People need to stop letting Kenny Ortega direct. He managed to do a fine job for High Schoo Musical but enough is enough. Everything looks too clean, too scrubbed away, all glitter and no grit, the kind of shiny-ness that comes from trying too hard. The live band is kind of a nice touch, but if they wanted to provide music on the spot, why not shoot the whole thing live? Most TV musicals are to add that level of showmanship to the performance. Yes, it looks pretty, but it’s just sort of soul-less, just dance number after dance number. They’re good dance numbers but no amount of kick-ball-turns will elevate this kind of a movie.
People have been coming out and complaining that the show has been sort of stripped of all its sexual liberation, all the weird and unexplained and all that it is free. I have to say I agree. Part can be blamed on the decision to air it on basic cable, part can be blamed on trying to appeal too broadly. You can’t just cast Laverne Cox and call it a day on creating diversity.
Beside missing the weird cobbling together of gender norms that was Tim Curry’s Frank, there’s no actual scenes of non-heterosexual affection. For example, Frank kisses plenty of men on camera but never kisses any of the women, even in the floorshow which is supposed absolutely hedonistic. It just doesn’t feel like the expression of free love and the destruction of boundaries — it feels more like the Kidz Bop version, soft and clean and not-challenging but also ultimately dry and uninteresting. Where’s the nostalgia for the B-movies? Where’s the mismatch in tone and context? Where’s the sense of an end of a beautiful era? And that is a crime with it comes to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
A TV Event That Misses The Point Of The Original
There are hidden gems in this production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show but for the most part it loses the insanity, the smut, the grit, and the nostalgia of the old version. Essentially, let’s not do the time warp again for a while, okay? And certainly not with Kenny Ortega at the helm.
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