By Katherine Buzan
It can often be hard to try to remake a movie, especially when it has a loyal fan base. Lately, many directors seem to be taking on that very challenge with mixed results. Kenny Ortega, who also directed High School Musical, is the most recent director to attempt a cult-classic remake with his modernized version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Rocky Horror, follows the story of Brad Majors (Ryan McCartan) and Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice). They get engaged and decide to pay a visit to their former professor, Dr. Scott (Ben Vereen). On the way, they get a flat tire and end up at the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) who, unbeknownst to them, is an alien from the planet Transexual. They go through many adventures at the castle as they attempt to deal with the attention from Dr. Frank-N-Furter and find a way to leave.
This new take on the cult classic makes a nod to the original with an addition to its title, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. A longer name is not the only difference between this version and the original. Instead of the iconic red lips on a black background, Let’s Do the Time Warp Again begins with an usherette, played by Ivy Levan, who is singing the song “Science Fiction Double Feature,” while standing under various movie posters and selling tickets for the movie. The movie, you soon learn, is Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. Other minor changes to the plot include the way Eddie was killed (stabbed with a knife instead of the original axe) and the way characters are frozen with the Medusa Transducer. (They are turned into naked statues in the original movie, here they are just frozen.)
Quite a few of other movie remakes in the past several years have featured cameos from original cast members. Rocky Horror’s original Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) makes an appearance in this remake as the criminologist. While it is often cool to see familiar faces reimagined in new roles, it can be hard to look past their original one. In this case, I think seeing Curry made me compare this version to the original in a way that I might not have otherwise done. Part of the reason for that reaction is that he was part of what made the original movie so great. The interactions between him and the rest of the cast were amazing to watch.
To me, it matters which role in the original film the actor or actress played. For example, when FOX produced Grease: Live I didn’t feel the need to closely compare it to the original, even though Didi Conn (Frenchie) and Barry Pearl (Doody) were in as Vi the waitress and Vince Fontaine’s agent Stan Weaver. In the case of Rocky Horror, I think I might have had a different reaction if Richard O’Brien, the original Riff Raff, or Susan Sarandon, the original Janet Weiss, had made a cameo.
Curry is not the only thing that comes to this remake from the original movie, the script comes, too. It is an odd experience to hear the same speech come out of the mouths of completely new people. Some of the actors, such as Reeve Carney (Riff Raff), attempt to mirror the speech patterns of the original actors. While they did modernize some of the songs and redesign the set, particularly the castle, it would have been different if they had decided to actually reimage Rocky Horror by changing the script, but that likely would have come with some problems as well.
My biggest problem with Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is that at times it seems like they are trying so hard to make it like the original while, at the same time, trying to make it its own production. This tends to make the movie a little muddled and makes the acting occasionally seem somewhat uncomfortable or forced. Christina Milian tries so hard to tap into some of the madness that comes with Magenta, but she just ends up making loud laughs that don’t achieve the desired effect. Staz Nair (Rocky) made his character much more like a Frankenstein monster, which is appropriate for the concept, but he his jerky movements were often awkward and somewhat distracting.
In Let’s Do the Time Warp Again, they added a new viewing element. There are moments where, in a traditional movie theatre viewing of Rocky Horror, an audience would participate by doing things like yelling phrases or throwing things at the screen. Ortega attempted to pull this experience into Let’s Do the Time Warp again by having an audience perform these actions.
In these moments, the movie cuts to that audience sitting in the movie theatre, which confusingly happens to be Frank-N-Furter’s castle, and gets their reactions as they watch the movie. I have never been to an actual showing of Rocky Horror, so it is interesting to see the motions that people actually perform when they go to a theatre showing, but it was distracting. It is bad enough to have commercials that break up the flow of the movie, having random showing of an audience makes it worse. It also really doesn’t add anything beyond being distracting from the actual movie. It seems to be an attempt, along with the use of a live band, to make the movie have the appearance of a live production, without having it actually be live. This was a common complaint in other reviews, and many attribute the low ratings to this fact. Let’s Do the Time Warp Again only pulled 4.9 million viewers as compared to the 12.2 million viewers Grease: Live pulled.
On another note, it was nice to finally be able to understand what was being sung in one of the songs. Meat Loaf was an amazing Eddie, but I could never understand what he was singing in “Hot Patootie–Bless My Soul.” For the longest time I thought he was singing “opportunity bless my soul,” and for some reason I never looked it up. With Adam Lambert singing the song, I can actually understand the lyrics.
The movie was alright. All of the cast had great voices, but I just couldn’t get past my instinct to compare it to the original. And some of the production choices were confusing. These issues caused me to find it somewhat lacking. Don’t just take my word for it, watch Let’s Do the Time Warp Again on FOX’s website.
Photo via FOX