By Lilly Ball
When “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” debuted in 1975, it shocked audiences everywhere by intentionally showcasing all the eccentricities it could muster. So many years later, inevitable social progress has dampened the specific brand of sexual weirdness that made “Rocky Horror” so shockingly special. But to many, the film maintains its status as a cult classic, along with a fanbase so dedicated that Fox felt compelled to do a remake. As unnecessary as their attempt was, Fox’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” was highly anticipated by TV buffs and “Rocky Horror” fanatics alike. But overwhelmed by its star-studded cast and glittery veneer, the made-for-TV film succeeds only at superficial glamor and tries nothing new, failing to match Jim Sharman’s classic.
The adaptation features the beloved story and characters that, over the past 40 years, many have come to know: Brad Majors (Ryan McCartan) and his fiancé Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice), an aggravatingly conservative couple, who, while on their way to visit a friend, suffer a flat tire and end up at a mysterious castle in the woods. Once they enter in search of a telephone, Brad and Janet are caught in the pandemonium caused by the castle’s owner, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) and her merry band of extraterrestrial misfits.
While the remake takes the same script, musical numbers and characters from the original, there is one major difference: the gender of its lead actor. With correct female pronouns and beautifully feminine costumes to match, Cox owns her character in a way unexpected from anyone other than Tim Curry. One of the film’s most popular songs, “Sweet Transvestite,” features a very outdated term that has been used to shame the trans community; but Cox performs it fabulously, presenting her trans identity proudly. Along with Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the film also features several other exceptional actors of color, aiming to correct the mistake of the original “Rocky Horror” with its all-white cast. Victoria Justice managed to capture the annoying innocence of Janet perfectly and hits her notes as highly as Susan Sarandon did so many years ago. Christina Milian was particularly impressive as the cheeky maid Magenta, and showcased a “Transylvanian” accent so humorous it sometimes distracted from her lines.
Much of the film’s glamor derives from the beautiful costumes designed by William Ivey Long, known for giving Broadway productions like “Hairspray” and “Cinderella” their magic. Right from her opening scene, Cox shines in glittering, eye-catching ensembles that never cross the line of becoming gaudy. Conceptually, each costume refers to those of the original film — fishnet tights and leather corsets and all — but with the added aspect of Cox’s femininity in mind, Long managed to create a wardrobe worthy of a female Frank-N-Furter, serving yet another purpose of distracting audiences from the remake’s lack of ingenuity.
Along with the provocative costumes, the film featured some stimulating dance moves to match the sexual nature of the musical itself. Director and choreographer Kenny Ortega, known for “High School Musical,” has certainly graduated from pre-teen friendly dance numbers. Though fans know the steps of the “Time Warp” by heart, Ortega put his own style into the classic musical number, bringing new excitement to the signature dance first introduced to us in the 70s.
Though Ortega failed to recreate the initial shock of the original “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (a nearly impossible task), he did manage to capture the titillating essence of it. Somewhere along the progression of songs, costume changes and dance numbers, “Rocky Horror” fans will find themselves singing along, and just as it was in 1975, the film cannot be fully explained, it can only be experienced.