I was eight years old the first time I watched the Rocky Horror Picture show. The movie was already a classic by then, and I was too young to really understand the intricacies behind it. But I loved the music, I loved the visuals and I felt, even then, that there was a deeper message there, one that was worth exploring.
Why do I bring up the original movie – or even the play, which I’ve also watched countless times, in a review about FOX’s remake of this cult classic? Simply because, even if FOX has billed this as a re-imagination, in the end, it feels way more like a modernization.
And that’s absolutely the best call they could have made.
I’m not a purist when it comes to movie remakes – though I understand loving something so much, thinking it so perfect that you can’t even comprehend another Janet, another Brad, or, more importantly, another Dr. Frank-N-Furter. And yet, that’s the way of the world, the way of Hollywood. Remakes are pretty much inevitable, and we either go along for the ride, or we barricade ourselves with the original movie and avoid the world for a while.
There’s absolutely no need to do it in this case, though. I promise. Absolutely no need.
After all, the story you loved hasn’t changed. Kenny Ortega, better known for “High School Musical,” cleans up the choreography a little bit, and adds the element of the movie theater crowds (which made the original the cult classic that it is today by adding interactive entertainment), but there’s nothing jarring, nothing that screams, that’s not the Rocky Horror Picture Show I know and love.
What are we left with? Damn good fun and new actors inhabiting these roles.
Because it is fun. Laverne Cox is all kinds of wonderful in a role that she seems to have been born to play and Ryan McCartan and, especially, Victoria Justice, bring what almost seems like an absurd naiveté to Brad and Janet that’s very much in keeping with the spirit of the original.
That’s without even going into Reeve Carney’s portrayal of Riff-Raff. He’d steal the show, if it were possible for a character like Riff-Raff to ever steal the show from Dr. Frank-N-Furter. It’s not, of course, but he comes close. I wonder now if the same happened in the original, and I was just then too immature to see it.
And though, in a small role, Adam Lambert, who stole my heart many years ago, manages to reinforce the notion that no, I didn’t waste my time dialing his number all those years ago in Idol, even if he didn’t win.
This isn’t the same kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show as the one you’ve probably experienced before. Or maybe it is. Maybe it’s we who’ve changed. I, for one, don’t find the sexual politics anywhere near as confusing as I found them when I was a kid. I, however, still find the tunes as catchy, the choreography as fun and the humor as timeless as I did then.
Is it the same? No, of course it’s not. Is it better? It’s really, really hard to improve on something so good. Does that mean you should skip it? No. Nostalgia is a very powerful thing, and though this might not be the standard you judge every other adaptation against, that doesn’t mean it’s not all in good fun.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show aired October 20 at 8/7c on Fox.