By SAM DEASSIS
On Oct. 20, many hard core “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fans took to their televisions with vigor, eagerly anticipating the reemergence of their obsession 41 years later. But the second the screen opened to something other than the infamous pair of red lips, it was clear that this remake was not going to carry the same weight as the original.
Besides the opening song’s reference to a “late night double feature picture show,” the original “Rocky Horror” did not make a habit of breaking the fourth wall. However, in the 2016 version, the storytelling style is reliant on this. The remake opens up with a woman leading the viewer into a theater, where a multitude of supposed “Rocky Horror” fans are waiting to watch. Throughout the movie, the viewers are shown these “fans” and their reactions during particular scenes that usually entice responses from the audience. However, this is uncomfortable when transferred onto the big screen. It was strange and confusing to watch a movie that constantly acknowledged the fact that it is a movie, showing a fake audience to the real audience to create an “Inception”–esque experience. Making the remake in itself is enough homage to the fans; it is unnecessary to call attention to the traditional scene responses made by the avid “Rocky Horror” viewer. The “say it!” during the “antici… pation” line only succeeded in making the movie seem like more of a spoof than a remake.
Additionally, the casting of the new version was a curious choice. With Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan being former Nickelodeon and Disney Channel stars, it was a bit uncomfortable seeing them in such adult roles. Although Ryan McCartan did make an acceptable Brad Majors with his meek yet endearing attempts at heroism, Victoria Justice gave off more of a teenage-beauty-queen-in-her-first-acting-role vibe than the innocent impressionable young woman Janet Weiss’ character calls for. Laverne Cox as Frank-N-Furter was an interesting choice, as her acting history is so different from that of Tim Curry. Cox’s representation of Frank-N-Furter was not too far off from Tim Curry’s, but she somehow lacked the alien eeriness of the original.
Christina Milian couldn’t have been a more out of place actress for the role of Magenta, as her bubbly aura is a clear contrast to the creepy essence of Magenta. Annaleigh Ashford’s Columbia was, on the other hand, possibly too dreary in comparison to the original Columbia’s loud and bubbly nature. However, the directors did make one brilliant casting choice in choosing Adam Lambert as Eddie. With Lambert’s musical background, he was able to give the character an edge similar to Meatloaf’s performance in the original. Lambert’s portrayal was spot-on, despite the few overtly silly expressions made by him as a result of a clear flaw in directing.
Although the original “Rocky Horror” may have had intentionally exaggerated and overdone acting, the remake took this to the next level. Victoria Justice took Janet’s damsel-in-distress overdone character to a point that was almost humorous. All of the overdone acting made the genre of the movie unclear; whether or not it was meant to be a comedy is debatable. It seemed like a spoof, with the acting so very overdone to the point where it seemed to mock the authentic camp of the original. The risqué scenes in the night between Frank-N-Furter and Janet and Frank-N-Furter and Brad were much more ridiculous and overall silly than the original scenes. The fact that the audience was able to see the actual figures rather than just shadows of them gave the directors an opportunity to make some more controversial decisions. However, they took the silly and awkward route, leading the audience to wish they would have just stuck with the silhouette technique of the original.
But, all of these letdowns in the style, casting and acting of the directors could have been overlooked if just one factor was implemented effectively: the music. With several songs memorized and close to the heart of any true “Rocky Horror” fan, it is easy to see how the remake’s success is reliant on the way these songs were performed. The singing was not poorly done, especially taking into account Lambert’s performance of “Hot Patootie.” However, it was very clear that lip syncing is not something that comes naturally to many of the cast members. At most times, it felt as though the music and singing was just background as the actors moved around on stage out of sync with the music.
It is clear that “Rocky Horror: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” was a flop. But, the directors and cast are not entirely to blame, as it is basically impossible to remake such a classic without scrutiny from die-hard fans. The original “Rocky Horror” was ahead of its time, and carried a degree of rebelliousness and uniqueness that cannot be cheaply reproduced. A timeless ode to the freak in all of us, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” carries a charm that cannot be matched.