“Detroit Rock City”
Edward Furlong, James DeBello, Guiseppe Andrews, KISS
Directed by Adam Rifkin
The simple premise for “Detroit Rock City” centers around a group of teens in 1978 who will do anything to get into a KISS concert. If that plot sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because its been done before. In 1976, director Robert Zemekis made a little-seen film called “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, which centered on a group of teens desperate to get in to see The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
In “City”, Hawk (Edward Furlong), Lex (Guiseppe Andres), Trip (James DeBello), and Jam (Sam Huntington) are high school metalheads counting down the minutes until their favorite band, KISS, comes to nearby Detroit. Jam’s mother (Lin Shaye) hates KISS so much, she burns the concerts tickets, forcing the boys to come up with alternate means of attending the concert. Along the way, we’re treated (treated?) to a barrage of disco ducks, male strippers, pottie humor, and sacrilegious behavior. Sounds like fun, right?
It’s probably not fair to continue with comparisons to “Hand”, especially since the target audience for “City” will most likely never have seen it, but the outlines are just too similar. “Hand” was a nostalgia trip that was able to capture the last true innocence of a country on the brink of social revolution, which the Beatles helped pave the way for. Also, the characters were so charming and had so many redeeming qualities, you wanted them all to succeed.
While KISS may not have a rock masterpiece along the lines of “Exile on Main Street” or “Abbey Road”, they definitely have a strong fan base. As for setting the film in 1978, if KISS is still touring and is more popular now than ever, where’s the nostalgia? Simply using songs from the period to capture the vibe is not enough, and the disco kings and queens portrayed here are more like cartoons than real people. Also, other than Jam, none of the other losers have any redeeming qualities, so who cares of they make it into the show?
Maybe I’m being a snob, but try as I might, I just couldn’t turn on my “stupo-meter” and enjoy the film. Director Adam Rifkin (“The Chase”) tries to fill every scene with some clever camera technique, and it becomes distracting. “City” feels more like a bad “Twisted Sister” video than a major motion picture.
After the binge of recent gross-out comedies like “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “American Pie”, you’d better be able to bring a fresh approach to raunchy humor to pull it off. In the end, and with a few exceptions, the gross out humor here is very gross and not very humorous, even by KISS standards. And that’s saying a lot.