Dear Kenny Ortega,
Oh, good sir: I know you directed Hocus Pocus, and even though I hated the High School Musical craze, I still saw the third movie in theaters with friends. But have you no taste or sense of cult classics? Because Great Scott! If there was one movie that didn’t need an update, it was The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The 1975 cult classic is, in my honest opinion, exactly how that movie should always be. Cheaply made, crass, and campy. There was no need for this update. You tried to give a nod the culture of Rocky Horror, but out of the 6 Rocky Horrors I’ve seen (two movies, one stage production and three shadow casts), this only made number 4 on my list (two of the shadow casts were offensively boring).
Let’s start at the beginning, when there were NO LIPS! The staple of Rocky Horror, the logo, the identifying image, was gone. What? Why? Ivy Levan sounded beautiful as Trixie, the movie theatre girl. But she couldn’t hit the screeched top notes in “passing the news lots of thrills.” Yes, there were lips at the end of the song, a nicely paid due. But there was also over-singing and riffing, which spread like a disease in this movie.
I didn’t hate the movie theatre opening as much as I expected. It paid homage to fans like me who dress up for midnight showings, throw things, scream lines at the screen and have props for each and every moment of the movie. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw this remake that I realized how much of the Audience Participation dialogue I knew. Yeah, I was in my living saying “on our feet” when “he told us where to stand.”
The opener also immediately set up my expectations for this movie: family-friendly remake that was trying to open up to new audience. Kids aren’t going to know that “The Day The Earth Stood Still” is a movie reference. I get it. Not everyone owns a Rocky Horror Trivia set like I do. I get it. But I’m not happy about it.
Brad and Janet were charming. Seriously, too charming. Ryan McCartan had none of the awkward sensibilities of the Barry Bostwick. It was like if Brad Pitt played a nerd. It doesn’t work. And Victoria Justice, while beautiful, lacks the prudishness for Janet. Brad and Janet are two terribly awkward virgins, basically two losers, thrust into a sexual universe they’ve never considered.
An alien environment, if you will. They are not cutesy-Mouseketeers at the Moulin Rouge. I mean, had Ryan or Victoria even seen the original before they filmed this? Their dialogue was delivered as if they were given bad lines readings. And the dry humor of the first movie was non-existent. Disney Stars do not a Rocky Horror make, Kenny.
And then, Frank himself showed up: Tim Curry! God bless that man. He had a stroke and this is how we welcome him back? Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, pandering to my love of Tim Curry. Well-played. It was like when Tom Baker showed up in the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who.
But back to your casting problems, Kenny: Reeve Carney, the ill-fated Spiderman of Broadway, was all sorts of wrong. From the wig to the walk to the spastic overacting at the opening of Time Warp, it was just all off. And Christina Milian as Magenta was equally as bad (what was her accent????).
Time Warp was… ugh how do I describe Time Warp? Well, Kenny, it was like the High School Musical version of Time Warp. Over-choreographed, over-sung and with a backup band? I know Rocky Horror is about excess but come on! I was waiting for Zach Efron and Corbin Bleu to come out of the woodwork for that one. Anna Leigh Ashford was the only redeemable part of that number, and that’s because she had Colombia’s camp down pat.
Oh and then, and then there’s no elevator???? Another classic image of the heel stopping and the zoom in on the face! You took away the elevator shot and you gave us a weird hat. Why, Kenny, why? Laverne Cox was beautiful, poised, and totally aware of what movie she was in.
But Kenny, those accents?! What were those accents?! The most inconsistent set of accents I’ve heard since Daniel Radcliffe attempted an American Accent in Horns. If Laverne Cox was the lead in a revival, I’d be dying for it. God Bless, girl, but you did not need to do this.
At this point in the movie, Kenny, you had lost me. No lips, no elevator, and you had the Transylvanians snapping. What else will you have me endure? How about Rocky with basketball shorts and frosted tips??? What? Frosted tips???? Kenny, you cast a beautiful, gorgeous, perfect man of color and you did that to his hair? Have you no decency man? Or maybe too much, since you deprived us of this man’s thighs. OH, ROCKY!
Now, I have to admit, in this semi-woke society that actively discusses rape culture and enthusiastic consent, I was nervous about the bedroom scenes. Especially since you were clearly trying to appeal to the kiddies in this one. But you know what? I think you did a pretty good job! Having the scene lit was a good choice. Brad and Janet were about as enthusiastic as these two virgins could have been. So well-done, sir.
I’m sure many people will disagree with me, since this is a problematic discussion. But let’s look at the bigger picture: “Toucha-Toucha-Toucha-Touch Me” is about as enthusiastic a consent song can be. In fact, we should really make that song an anthem for consent: unless women are actively singing “touch me,” don’t touch them!
From about here on out, Rocky Horror always gets to be a drag (no pun intended). Ben Vereen as Dr. Scott was a hilarious choice. But Ben Vereen surely you didn’t need this job. The dinner sequence was forgettable, and everything leading up to the final number was bland. Ken, just because you add glitter and sparkle to the scene, doesn’t mean it’s going to be interesting. Once again, Annaleigh Ashford and her heartfelt cry of love was the saving grace of the second half of this movie.
“Rose Tints My World” has always been a favorite of mine. But the orchestrations and the polished-Disney-style killed it for me. And Reeve Carney returning in his wild alien garb, complete with guitar gun, was just terrible. Like truly, I really wish he was never in this movie. Laverne couldn’t even pull me back with “Going Home.”
Once the spaceship takes off and “Superheroes” begins, I became very confused. Were they in the movie theatre the whole time? Did the audience and Trixie die in the explosion? Are we traveling through different times? Answer my questions, Kenny!
You spoon fed the audience a little too much, Kenny. Too much pandering of “Brad and Janet are awkward; the aliens are sexual; it’s weird.” You never let the camp live on its own. It was like if Regina George from Mean Girls wanted to produce Rocky Horror to be risqué, when we all know Janice Ian and Damien would put on the best show.
In conclusion, Kenny, stick to the Disney stuff. And you and Fox can get your paws off my adults-only cult favorites.
P. S. I forgot Adam Lambert was even in this movie as Eddie. Sorry, Adam!