The Time Warp may have been too much for Fox’s reboot of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to handle. The shock factor of outward sexuality and gender-bending has worn off a bit since the original movie debut in 1975.
Accoriding to E! Online, only 4.9 million viewers even bothered to tune in to the show on Oct. 20. This is compared to the audience of the similar “Grease: Live” show from earlier this year which drew in 12.2 million viewers. Those who did tune in weren’t all too impressed with what they saw.
One of the biggest issues was Fox’s decision to not do a live show. While much of the set for Rocky Horror may have been a challenge to shoot, a lot of it could have been pulled off in the same fashion of “Grease: Live.” The final scenes with the cast on an actual stage left many wondering why that couldn’t have been done in real time. A big problem with the choice was that it should have at least allowed for bigger and better effects, which still fell short.
Much of Rocky Horror’s fame these days comes in the form of audience participation. Fans wear crazy costumes to midnight showings and live performances and are all encouraged to sing along, get crazy and even throw things around while they watch. Director, Kenny Ortega (yes, from High School Musical) paid small homage to this tradition by setting the opening song in a movie theater. The iconic red lips took the form of an usher leading us to our seats. There are random flashes back to the theater audience throughout the story. These flashes are truly random and almost out of place, and anyone just tuning in to the tradition may find them utterly confusing.
The casting is subpar as well. The transylvanians of the 70s were not only more shocking but generally weirder. For example, Riff Raff, the man who opens the door for Brad and Janet and kicks off the “Time Warp” musical number. In the original, he donned a super strange bald on top, long in the back hair-do and a Quasimodo level hunchback. This Riff Raff, played by broadway actor Reeve Carney, was not very scary. Carney looks relatively normal, just with a paler face and a bad dye job on his long hair.
The introduction of Rocky, Dr. Frank-n-Furter’s science experiment of a boyfriend, also lost a lot of its luster. The original showed the transylvanians unwrapping a mummy to reveal a man in a gold speedo. This version just plopped a man in what looks like gold swim trunks onto the screen and expected us to be shocked.
The main characters, Brad and Janet, played by Ryan McCarten and Victoria Justice were also much flatter somehow. The main idea behind Rocky Horror is Brad and Janet’s transformation from innocent, uptight, goody goodies into people who are accepting of their sexualities and the sexual and gender fluidities of others. McCarten and Justice never really seem to be too much on either side of their character development. They never seemed too against the new things and didn’t really seem to make a transformation so much as just go along with whatever.
While Laverne Cox delivers an all out performance as Dr. Frank-n-Furter, her casting may not have even been the best choice. Much of the shock of Frank-n-Furter in the original came from a man strutting around in lingerie wanting to be a woman. Cox plays the entire character very feminine as she has made a full and fabulous transition.
This makes the entire show less shocking. A female creating the perfect man in a lab, however weird that may be, is still not as shocking as a man creating the perfect man in a lab. Unfortunately, McCarten’s Brad looks more like the original Frank-n-Furter near the end when he ends up in a gold pin up look.
This isn’t to say that the entire cast didn’t perform well. The musical numbers were still as spectacular as always and begged you to sing along. The costuming and screenplay was also on point.
The fact that Rocky Horror has less shock factor now isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our society has matured enough to not scream in the same girlish fashion as Janet when we see someone who is different. Transgender individuals are now accepted and not seen as shocking or scary. We are no longer as prude about sexuality or gender fluidity as we once were, and this seems to be a step in the right direction.
However, if you’re looking for the perfect Halloween tradition that is over the top strange, I’d stick to Tim Curry’s original.