The sheer volumes of 1-star reviews for the ‘new’ Rocky Horror Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is astounding. The highest rating I saw was a four despite Fox’s efforts to pull out all the stops, in this post, I want to consider why this might be and why a new remake of a cult classic will never, ever win.
Tackling a remake of a cult classic is tenuous work and they already have an audience of critics. Combined with the fact that it was traditionally a British film – a country synonymous with the weird and startling protective of the creative talent we produce that actually makes it big, the ‘new’ Rocky Horror is ‘too American’: too slick, too musical and too much money invested in it. That being said, it is not without merit and I don’t think it should be totally discounted.
Firstly, the music has been changed, and, on the one hand, I think it is a good thing they changed it a little – what is the point of remaking something so it is exactly the same (maybe Hollywood can answer that for us)? But on the other hand, the original is so beloved that it is difficult to stomach the change. It just doesn’t sound right. It’s more polished and more ‘musical’ (for lack of a better term), which sort of ruins the effect of the original and the way it mocked the cheap RKO films of its time. The actual sound has become smoother too, almost overshadowing the vocals, meaning there is no need for the actors to enunciate as much for the audio to pick up, in actual practice this seems to have caused a loss in the mania of the original – there is no more shock factor from random moments of silence and shouting.
The choreography, however, is fantastic – especially for the Time Warp – the actual ‘pelvic thrusts’ genuinely make it seem lewd and horrifying rather than slightly dulled down version we have come to expect. Actually, this whole production is a lot more obviously sexual than the original, or rather, it caters to current expectations of the lewd – the original seems rather tame nowadays. I also like the references to the cult responses to the original – the occasional cuts to the audience in a cinema, which is also a nice remaking of Frank-n-Furter’s desire to be a star (“I’m going home”). This version truly embraces cinema over theatre, with complete costume changes occurring in the ‘Don’t Dream it’ sequence which draws attention to the editing, and a huge crane in the ‘Sweet Tranvestite’ song. In the original, especially since it was originally for theatre, the final sequence is hammed up through theatrical spectacle and Frank-N-Furter’s imagination.Whilst this new interpretation is interesting, I would argue that it changes the character of Frank-N-Furter a little through giving him the means to actually create his fantasy rather than being totally psychotic.
With regards to the complaints on casting – the casting for Brad (Ryan McCarten) is spot on, he looks and acts the part. Janet (Victoria Justice) comes with the associations of eye-rolling derision at another Disney Star trying to do something ‘edgy’, either way, I think that Brad and Janet are the most easily replicated, perhaps because they are meant to be total stereotypes. I’m not sold on Adam Lambert as Eddy but that might be personal preference to performance styles.
Finally, I’ve seen many complaints about the fact that Laverne Cox is transgender rather than transsexual, which makes the story different. To be fair, it perhaps does ruin the element of surprise in the “Sweet Transvestite” scene, after all, Laverne Cox is female so it is not the same as seeing a male body in a corset and suspenders, however, I thought her performance, and singing, was pretty good. That being said, Tim Curry is a beloved British Actor and Cox’s attempt to emulate his accent and voice really just detract from her own performance, which is a real shame as I think it has a lot of potential.
Ultimately, it just isn’t the same, which brings me back to the main problem: whilst this adaptation is not without merit, it isn’t the original and therefore it will never be able to compete.