Review: A New ‘Rocky Horror,’ Stripped of Subversive Magic

Some things can’t be replicated or recaptured, and thanks to Fox we now know that one of them is the subversive magic of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

On Thursday night, the network serves up its new version of the cult film (for some reason titled “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”), and although it’s moderately entertaining at times, it never makes clear why it needed to be attempted. That’s the burden of any remake, of course, and from that perspective the project may have been doomed from the start. Certain performances simply can’t be topped.

Tim Curry’s original rendition of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania,” falls into that category, and so do many of the supporting performances in that film, which came out in 1975. The job of filling Mr. Curry’s shoes — insert your own footwear joke there, by the way — in the new version falls to Laverne Cox, who doesn’t get to make a jaw-dropping entrance the way Mr. Curry did and never does quite catch up to him.

The old saw about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery isn’t really true for remakes — find something fresh, or go home — yet imitation is what mostly comes to mind here. If there were something revelatory to be gleaned by having Ms. Cox, a well-known transgender performer, rather than a man play the role, she and her director, Kenny Ortega, didn’t find it. Only in the show’s outlandishly maudlin finale does she really put her stamp on things.

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