The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again movie full length review - Condescendingly self-aware
First things first, I was among the few who was genuinely excited about this remake. I thoroughly enjoyed 2015's "Rocky Horror Show Live" (check You Tube) and the various other musical TV productions of recent years.
However, my enthusiasm gradually transformed into disgust for what I was witnessing. When I was in junior high and high school, I was ridiculed for my obsessive love of Rocky Horror. Then in 1991, Fox debuted the movie for Halloween and the next day, the very same kids who'd made fun of me were Time Warping in the school hallway. It was weird, and I later realized that was THE moment when RHPS began to mutate from a subversive cult thing to a mainstream classic. Watching this glossy travesty, I found myself overwhelmed by that same uneasy feeling I had a quarter-century ago after Fox first aired the film.
It took me a while to figure out the problem with the 2016 version. The cast and crew bestowed it with the same respect that audiences have shown the film in theaters for decades: They've treated it like it's schlock to be made fun of. There were certainly campy winks and nods in the original, but when it came time for the characters to emote, you believed Tim Curry could abruptly snap and violently murder someone or Susan Sarandon was having spontaneous orgasms. Those nuances are mostly absent in the performances here, and it's so self-aware and Disney-fied that it's kind of insulting. It's one thing for the audience to mock the screen, but most of the actors are mocking the characters that they themselves are portraying, which just doesn't work.
The dishonor of worst performance goes to Ben Vereen, who was woefully miscast as Dr. Scott. Placing the black Vereen in the role of uncle to white Adam Lambert's Eddie was a questionable decision to begin with, but Vereen mugs his way through his scenes, acting as if he's starring in some insipid kiddie comedy. It's downright bizarre. Runner-up in the worst performer category goes to Laverne Cox, who gives an admittedly exuberant but ultimately hollow performance as the mad scientist. Cox offered none of the underlying menace that Curry displayed in the role (Tim Curry could kill you, but Laverne Cox only seems capable of a whopping bitchslap) and she played it like she was the singular star in a glitzy drag show, mimicking Curry's syllables and vocal inflections with an annoying, fluctuating British/Southern Belle accent. The good Franks (Anthony Head, for example) fully inhabited the character and injected it with their own stamp, which Cox did not.
Perhaps the worst aspect of this production (overlooking the fact that the dancers aren't doing the steps being audibly described in the titular Time Warp) is how they've systematically whitewashed the rampant sexuality which was so pivotal to the flimsy plot. Today sexual deviancy is socially acceptable, other network TV offerings frequently devolve into scenes that would have once been considered X-rated -- and the Fox network aired the original film numerous times throughout the 1990s with minimal trims, so there's really no excuse. Casting Cox as a woman (regardless of the fact that she used to be a dude) completely undermines the story of the wholesome Leave it to Beaver couple being torn apart by a kinky sex freak. It was the gay community which embraced the movie back in the '70s, we have at least one openly gay and one transgendered star, and yet virtually all traces of homosexuality (as well as incest) were eliminated. It's oddly incongruous and completely destroys the narrative.
That's not to say that everything's bad. Adam Lambert and Ivy Levan are stand-outs as Eddie and the Usherette. Annaleigh Ashford gave a radically different interpretation of Columbia which works well, given the character's story arc. Similarly, Reeve Carney made Riff-Raff his own. Victoria Justice has an awesome singing voice. Tim Curry lends an appropriate air of dignity, and although he was physically unable to do all the things that his part required (such as turning the pages of a book), they came up with an inventive workaround. Nice to see him again, even in poor health. Unfortunately, the cons FAR outweigh the pros in this production.
Generally speaking, the remake that no one wanted (dating back to the days when MTV was going to do it) has lived up to all of the hateful hype. It brings nothing new to the table, it's like a pallid carbon-copy on tissue paper. Your best bet's to stick with the original, see the 2015 version or catch a live show instead.