By Cameron Flatt, E23 Reporter

The term “cult classic” normally refers to a movie that was not popular upon its initial release, but has built up a strong, fanatical following over time. A definitive example is the original 1975 “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” To this day, fans still pile into theaters in which they dress up as their favorite characters, sing-along to the musical numbers, and talk to the movie.

So, of course, the television network Fox thought up the brilliant scheme to try to artificially replicate this incredibly specific phenomenon with a TV movie remake entitled “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.”

The story is exactly that of the original: stereotypically traditional Brad and Janet get caught in a storm when their car breaks down and they are forced to seek help from a nearby castle. The castle belongs to one Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist who also just happens to be transsexual. Brad and Janet arrive right as Dr. Furter is revealing his creation: a “perfect” man created in his/her own image named Rocky Horror.

As Brad and Janet learn more about their hosts through comically overdone musical numbers, they discover that what I just described is not the strangest thing going on. Normally, a remake should be judged on its own merit, but this new version being almost identical is just begging for comparison.

The Musical Numbers 

With the likes of Adam Lambert and Victoria Justice on hand representing two astoundingly infuriating elements of modern music culture (American Idol and Nickelodeon respectively), I was dreading the hack job that would be done on these iconic musical numbers. As far as just the vocals themselves, nothing was offensively bad or distractingly modern. The problem is that this is where the running theme of “they completely missed the point” will start to run through this review.

One of the hooks of the original was that most of the actors were not notably talented vocalists, but made up for it with dramatic annunciation and unrelenting enthusiasm. In the 2016 version, it is obvious that Fox is trying to sell its renditions on iTunes, so the vocals are much more refined and withheld. The fun and personality is gone, and with it so too is the heart of the story.

The Cast 

I’m guessing the soulless machines “creative minds” behind the remake recognized the loss of character in the singing and decided to overcompensate by having the performers double up on the overacting. Seriously, you would think that some of these people had learned acting from the Wiggles after they had all done 12 lines of cocaine. The original was 100% overacted, but done in a skillful, self-aware manner that was mindful of which moments called for silliness and which called for subtleties.

Director Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical” trilogy, “Descendants,” “Newsies” and “Hocus Pocus”) obviously had no interest in allowing the cast to potentially add their own touches to their characters, but instead had them do exactly what the original cast did, just annoyingly animated and thoughtlessly hammy.

The Visuals 

Similar, in a sense, to the problem with the vocals is the visual style. Ortega’s work is almost entirely Disney musicals, meaning he is used to making everything look smooth, clean, and flashy. The result here is a stage appearance where the scenes looks as though they are part of a big Broadway production.

This is almost as far as you can get from the grimey, realistic look of the original. This realism highlighted the absurdity, nicely contrasted with the wackiness, and gave the ending the power it needed to stick with people. The modern look is distracting and the characters get lost in the flashy set design.

The Editing and Camera Work 

One thing I greatly respect about the original is its use of long, wide takes. This allowed for the audience to take in all of the mad happenings all at once and let some actions and jokesnaturally occur within the movement of the scene. This new version can’t go five seconds without cutting to a close up of a character, especially when two characters are directly interacting.

So, if a character makes a joke or says something important, we get a shot of them saying it and multiple shots of everyone reacting. This kills the flow and timing through the entire movie (two crucial elements of music and comedy) and makes the audience feel stupid because everything is being force fed to them.

Dr. Frank-N-Furter 

The lasting legacy of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is that it gave the world Tim Curry (also famous for playing Pennywise in “It,” Darkness in “Legend,” and Nigel Thornberry in “The Wild Thornberrys”). Curry’s performances as Dr. Frank-N-Furter is one of the most unique and memorable in film and living up to it would be absolutely impossible.

The choice of actual transgender actress Laverne Cox to replace him is not an inherently bad one, she is able to match plenty of Curry’s quirks and characteristics, but she brings nothing of note to the overall personality of the character. Curry matched the ludicrous tone of the movie because he was so obviously a man in woman’s clothing and make up, where as Laverne Cox just looks like a larger than normal female that likes to dress extravagantly. What would be in the spirit of the original would be casting an actor similar to Curry, and randomly throwing in transgender actors in other roles in a sly subversion of expectations.

All things considered, this 2016 remake is nothing more than a high school drama rendition that focuses more on being cool and modern than saying anything of value. There is just nothing I found particularly good about this soulless, corporate retread.

It is not as bad as it could have been: it has a sizeable budget, decent production quality, bearable singing, and average acting. Everything is just fine; that is all, not much to remark on other than it is almost exactly the same (on the surface) as the original. It is this adherence to the source material that kills any artistic integrity that the remake might have been able to otherwise conjure up.

Tags: , , , , , , ,