“Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.” And again and again.
Fox premieres a new adaptation of the campy 1973 stage musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on Thursday. The film may have some flaws, but you will easily overlook them, because if you don’t, Laverne Cox is going to set you, well, not “straight,” in this case.
Cox plays the central character of Dr. Frank-N-Furter and dominates the production, despite terrific work by the other cast members: Reeve Carney as handyman Riff Raff, Victoria Justice as the virginal Janet Weiss and Ryan McCartan as the virginal Brad Majors, Annaleigh Ashford as the blue-tongued groupie Columbia, Staz Nair as the mad doctor’s hunky creation Rocky Horror, Christina Milian as the sexy, trampy Domestic, and Adam Lambert in a showstopping cameo as Eddie, the Ex-Delivery Boy.
Tim Curry, who played Frank-N-Furter in the 1975 cult film, is the narrator and criminologist, and Ben Vereen is Dr. Everett von Scott, a scientist.
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If you care about the story line, you probably haven’t attended any of the thousands of screenings of the original film over the past 41 years, where fans show up dressed as characters from the film and, en masse, replicate various scenes as they occur. For example: pulling out newspapers to fold over their heads when Janet tries to protect her hairdo from the rain after she and Brad get stranded close to Frank-N-Furter’s castle.
They make their way to the castle to find the doctor hosting the annual Transylvanian Convention. Brad and Janet are welcomed into the castle and stripped to their underwear. They witness the Doctor’s unveiling of her creature, Rocky Horror. Weirdness, campiness, song, dance and sexual innuendo ensue.
The songs by Richard O’Brien are cleverly functional, and “The Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite” are showstoppers, staged with appropriate excess by director Kenny Ortega.
Ortega pays homage to the history of the musical, not only by including Curry in the cast but also in the film’s overall concept, which is to include a hyped-up audience in the Castle Theater watching and replicating key events in the film. Ortega cuts back and forth a few times to break that fourth wall, but not so much as to hobble the inspired silliness of the film itself, which of course satirizes horror and science fiction films of the 1950s and earlier.
Laverne Cox is magnificent, displaying a thrillingly pliable voice that easily ascends to the highest female register and then plummets to a basso profundo. She commandingly swans, dances, dips and shimmies around the set in William Ivey Long’s extravagant costumes as if she were born to play the role, and, as it turns out, she was.
In the middle of all this frivolity, there is a message, the same one that resonates through some of the more memorable horror movies: the heartache of being “the other.” We see it in the sweetness and sorrow of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, and in the loneliness of Lon Chaney Jr.’s werewolf.
In the case of “Rocky Horror,” “the other” includes transvestites, transsexuals and social misfits, all yearning for acceptance by society. In “Rocky Horror,” the protagonist and her minions are literally aliens, which only sharpens the metaphor of not belonging.
The film has some minor issues. The lip-syncing isn’t perfect, and the cinematography relies on quick, herky-jerky shots instead of trusting that there is more than enough going on to supply a sense of raucous movement.
The dialogue and song lyrics are campy, fun and filled with archaic pop culture references to figures like Leo G. Carroll and Fay Wray. The only drawback to watching this on TV, as opposed to seeing it in a movie theater, is that you’ll have to put up with commercials.
Then again, if you want something to do when they’re hawking products between acts, here’s a suggestion: “It’s just a jump to the left/ And then a step to the right/ With your hand on your hips/ You bring your knees in tight.”
‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again’ airs at 8 p.m. Oct. 20 on Fox.