Fox’s New “Rocky Horror” Can’t Compare to the Original

Author: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell

In the 1970s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” timewarped it’s way into the hearts of eccentrics and musical enthusiasts all over the world. The wonderfully weird tale of seemingly picture-perfect couple Janet Weiss and Brad Major’s night of misadventure in the Transylvanian inhabited castle would continue to inspire dedication for generations to come. On, Thursday October 20, continuing its tradition of broadcasting musicals, Fox aired “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”.

The Kenny Ortega-directed event was not as Disney-fied as it could have been, but lacking corsets and its original raunchiness the made for tv film was noticeably toned down in comparison to the original. With a mixture of modern clothing and 1970s fashion it seemed that the writers and directors never quite settled on which time period the events were taking place in.

Although flawed, the remake had its finer points: an aesthetically pleasing set, a diverse cast and impressive special effects. For the benefit of fans, the remake was peppered with references, from the audience participation elements to cameos by Tim Curry. It was very clear that the powers that be tried immensely hard to truly pay tribute to the film’s history.

The cast itself gave dedicated performances, some of which stood up to the original, while others did not. Victoria Justice enthusiastically shed her child star status to play the naive and eternally frightened Janet. The awkwardness Disney star Ryan McCartan brought to his portrayal of Brad, intentionally or not, managed to make the often disliked character endearing. The remake features transgender woman Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter; in the original, Tim Curry cross-dressed for the role. Cox’s vocals were impressive and her costumes glamorous, but ultimately her portrayal lacked the unhinged quality that made the original character so memorable.

The script used in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” was nearly identical to the 1974 film, so the most noticeable changes were to the soundtrack. Some of the memorable rock and roll tunes such as “Sweet Transvestite” and “Time Warp” were for no discernable reason converted to jazz. Since the film was neither entirely modern nor entirely a tribute, some of the changes appeared to be simply for the sake of change.

At times feeling like an episode of “Glee,” it was abundantly clear that the cast knew they were putting on a show, thus making the movie feel overly scripted at times. Whereas the original’s humor meshed bizarreness and subtlety to create never ending stream of memorable moments, unfortunately the remake’s attempts at humor sometimes came off as trying to hard, and were undoubtedly limited by what can be done on network television.

In a world of nostalgia and never ending throwbacks, remakes and reimaginings are becoming more and more frequent. Even with the best of casts and writing teams, remakes are practically set up to fail. Despite their best efforts they can never recapture the magic of the original. They also fail to understand that a classic is a classic because its material stands out in a way that’s timeless, meaning that audiences will be able to connect with it no matter what year it is.

Like many remakes, although not for lack of passion or trying, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Timewarp Again” doesn’t measure up to the original cult classic. But in its defense, there was no possible way that it could have. On its own it’s an enjoyable film, with solid performances. However, on its own it’s not the kind of movie that would inspire nearly 40 years worth of pop-culture references, costumes and live performances, but it’s not terrible. Its fatal flaw is simply that it will be compared to the original, but never quite compare.


Originally published at blogs.chatham.edu on October 31, 2016.