For the first time ever in my history, I have seen an IMDB star rating increase over the course of two hours. Thursday, October 20th, 2016, marked the day that FOX’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again premiered. First off, anything 41 years later and still getting that devoted cult attention is worth recognizing.
But is this redux worth recognizing?
Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) plays the iconic Doctor Frank-N-Furter. The Alabama native, who has broken new ground in advocating for the LGBTQ community, brings an entirely different approach to this role than Tim Curry did in the legendary 1975 original film. This entire show is a modern day activist telling; appealing to the current – and curious – MTV crowd that might make them come out of their shells and experiment a little. No, I’m not talking about that (or am I) but rather enjoy a new take on a piece of classic cinematic and theatrical culture way ahead of its time.
Directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical 1, 2, and 3) this new version had strong anticipations going into it, not just from the core Rocky Horror audience, but musical critics who are all too familiar with his work and the bar set by FOX’s previous outings such as Grease: Live. Credit to him, and the direction he gave despite the restricting television medium was strong, but I did wish it had the “LIVE” appeal — sadly this was an actual movie version and therefore not broadcast in the moment. The costume design though was spectacular as was the make-up, lighting, stage, and all those internal works from the crew did not go unnoticed.
God Bless Tim Curry. The veteran actor, whom unfortunately has undergone some serious health issues in the past few years, came back to the Rocky Horror world he helped make famous (as the original Frank-N-Further in the film version) to play the Narrator/Criminologist. As a fan of his work, it is great to see him on that screen again and some scenes seem stressed while others he fits naturally in with his signature screen presence.
While the meta-world may rejoice for what this new entry brings, it seemed a deliberately campy take on the pre-established classic and brilliance that the original concept brought. I read some critics dismay over the fourth-wall break of the in-theatre audience watching along with us… actually I liked that aspect simply because the entire narrative took the “this is a show and not anything else” parody/paradox approach.
Ahhh the songs… the opening “Midnight Double-Feature Show” gave an excellent introduction and they even did a spin on “Time Warp” so respect to that because we didn’t need a rehash of the unbeatable original. I might point out that Reeve Carney (Horror fans you will know him from Penny Dreadful) did a superb job as Riff Raff – I mean he practically channeled Richard O’Brien’s voice and mannerisms. Was he THAT perfect and to the same level? No. But fantastic never-the-less. Same goes to Victoria Justice (Zoey 101) as Janet. A Susan Sarandon she was not but come that second and third act, Victoria really leveled up! Her performance of “Touch Me” was extraordinary; practically saving her entire part in this film and winning me over. Adam Lambert as Eddie (originally played my Meat Loaf) was a stand-out moment as well.
Annoying commercial breaks aside, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is worth getting on DVD when available or checking out a rerun. A friend of mine said it best that he watched this “not really comparing it too much to the original” (thank you for the insight Ulises Minor Vázquez a.k.a. Pro-Wrestler Gabriel Fuerza) because I think he had the right approach. It gave fresh pizzazz to this 2016 Halloween season and also likely encouraged and inspired today’s LGBTQ youth. It’s not for everyone and doesn’t have the magic of the original, but give the credit to fresh takes, and the look, that went into giving something that modern audiences could watch either separately, with friends, or with family. There’s still a glimmering light over at that Frankenstein place!