A reboot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show just aired on Fox, where everyone was antici…pating whether or not it would be worth a watch.
More so than a lot of musicals, Rocky Horror has a particularly special place in the hearts of its fans. It’s a celebration of sexuality, taboo subjects, and general weirdness. The film has become a cult classic, to be watched around Halloween and, frankly, anytime it pleases you.
Rebooting such a beloved film was always going to have its risks. If it was too similar to the original, it would feel like a ripoff, like there was no point in doing a remake. If it was too dissimilar, the creators would run the risk of taking away everything fans love about the original.
As a huge fan of the movie, I have to admit that I was not looking forward to the reboot. For a film that is so iconic in its lines, its songs, and even the little mannerisms each actor brings to their character, any change in the remake would feel too great.
Nonetheless, I did try to keep an open mind. I knew this would be different, and I tried to accept that the actors who were taking on such well-known roles had as much love for them as we do, and that they were just trying to bring a part of themselves into a world we all enjoy.
But it’s how iconic this movie is that causes the most issues with the remake. I’d catch myself grinning when certain shots lined up exactly as they were in the original, but I’d also be disappointed when parts were changed.
Fundamentally, the fact that Frank-N-Furter isn’t wearing a green surgeon’s gown with a pearl necklace doesn’t matter one bit. But at the same time, I can’t help but notice that Laverne Cox is wearing a totally different outfit. As a purist, as stickler for detail, I couldn’t help but find myself annoyed. It was clear that the remake was trying to pay homage while also updating the style and modernizing the outfits just a bit. In some places it worked (Laverne Cox was gorgeous in all of her outfits), while in other places it did not (the new ’80s-era punk rock Transylvanians just didn’t work for me).
Another way the show paid homage to the original was by incorporating the live element into the actual movie. Every once in a while, the cameras would pull back and we’d see the movie playing on a large screen where a “live” audience could interact with the film as fans today do with the original.
It was a nice effort on the remake’s part to include the fan culture in this movie, but it also takes you out of the movie you’re watching. It reminds you this is a remake and pauses the drama you’re experiencing on screen. Part of me likes that they did this — acknowledging the devotion of the fans — but another part of me just found myself annoyed that the “audience” was reacting to the film like they would the original.
No offense to Fox or any of the actors, but I doubt anyone is going to be putting this up on the big screen and centering shows around it.
On the other hand, when Tim Curry came on screen and the audience gave him a standing ovation, it was sort of magical.
But let’s talk about the music because every song from this movie is iconic in its own right, and I felt as though the remake made too many changes. They would never be able to get them to be exactly as they were in the original, but I often found myself wondering if they decided to completely change the genre of some of the songs as well.
“Science Fiction — Double Feature” was beautifully sung by Ivy Levan, and yet it didn’t pack the same punch. In fact, that’s how I felt about most of the songs, particularly “Time Warp” and “Eddie.” They lacked the same raw oomph and fun bounce we’ve gotten so used to over the years.
That said, there were some songs that I thought did a great job at either recreating the original as close as possible or putting a spin on it that I actually liked. “Dammit, Janet” and “Hot Patootie — Bless My Soul” were both great additions. The former was particularly helped along by Ryan McCartan as Brad Majors, while the latter was all Adam Lambert’s doing.
But I think one of the main reasons why I liked these songs was that they felt the same. “Dammit, Janet,” is a silly, light, fun song enhanced by the antics on screen. “Hot Patootie,” is a rock-n-roll melody that makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance. Nothing about that changed in the remake, and I was reminded why I liked those songs in the first place, rather than wondering why unnecessary runs or high notes were thrown into the mix.
To make it clear, I think most of the actors did a great job taking on the mantle of their characters. Laverne Cox stepped into some pretty big heels for this role, and I’m sure critics will enjoy taking her down a notch or two. I thought she captured Frank-N-Furter’s character quite nicely, a mix between sweet, sexual, and quick to anger.
Most of the characters were all close enough in tone to the originals that it didn’t bother me, including Staz Hair as Rocky, who was hilarious, and McCartan as Brad, who really came into his own during “Rose Tint My World.” The only exception here was Annaleigh Ashford as Columbia, who seemed flat in comparison to Little Nell’s original characterization.
At the end of the day, I didn’t hate The Rocky Horror Picture Show remake, despite being admittedly biased toward the original. I found myself laughing and enjoying some of the scenes I always laugh at and enjoy in Tim Curry’s version, and it was nice to see some actors I’m familiar with try their hand at a show like this.
But I won’t be watching this one again. There was nothing in here that did anything better than the original, so why would I rewatch this one, when I can just pop the old one into my DVD and sing along to my heart’s content?
I applaud everyone for trying to recreate the strangely compelling story that was told with the original, but the remake seemed like a toned down version. This one felt a little smoother, a little more coordinated. It felt less taboo and less raw. It was still weird and still carried the same message about accepting your strangeness, but in a watered-down way that felt less honest and natural.