In 1978, a Kiss concert was an epoch-making event. For the three teen fans in Detroit Rock City getting tickets to the sold-out show becomes the focal point of their existence. They'll do anything for tickets -- compete in a strip club's amateur-night contest, take on religious protesters, even rob a convenience store!
by Dane Youssef
Now here is a film that is designed to preach to the choir. Well, not so much preach as praise. "Detroit Rock City" is a movie that plays out like a throwback to those wonderful days when... you and your friends lived on a steady diet of junk food, teenage smarmy... and great music.
You and your buds had your own band (in the garage, the basement or the backyard) and you had a dream that someday, you'd be up there rocking and rolling for a living.. just like the very bands you worshiped religiously. Some of you made it come true. Made it to that side. Got to live out your dream and was paid the same worship you gave your elders. Most of the others just grew up, and... well...
That's a lot of what "Detroit Rock City" is about. Thankfully, it's really not one of those "topical" movies that just showcase a flavor-of-the-month band in a starring role like "Spice World," "Cool As Ice" or "Crossroads." Films like those feel so passÃ©' and ancient in a week or so. When people go to those movies, afterwords, they just ask themselves, "What was I thinking? God, so dorky! So lame! So embarrassing! Eyecch!"
He's just like me... they're just like my buds. They sound and think just like us... Jeez... some things are timeless.
The cast is first-rate. The look and sound is so flawless, it's... And the music is all there. Director Adam Rifkin gives this an MTV-music video style of cinematography. And Carl V. Dupre' writes like he's about the age of the boys himself. It's almost like one of our heroes wrote it. Well, in a way, maybe they did.
"Write what you know. Tell your own personal story." --- Old Writing rule
The screenplay is the very definition of originality: entirely composed of stolen elements from countless other movies--"American Graffitti," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "That '70's Show," "Clerks," "The Full Monty," "Footloose," "Dazed and Confused" and probably a lot of others. And the character of Trip is obviously lifted and from the Kevin Smith movies.
Of course, let's face it---there's nothing new under the sun and most filmmakers (at least 9 out of 10, anyway) are making movies just like the ones they grew up with. The movies that made them not only want to be filmmakers, but even before that---made them film lovers.
The scene-stealer's in the film are Sam Huntington as the sweet-natured, weak-willed, yet most lovable of the whole bunch, Jereimiah "Jam" Bruce and Linda Shaye as his God-fearing, bible-thumping, holier-than-all mother.
The usually reliable Edward Furlong isn't nearly as good, and his role is much more on-par with that of the forgettable "Pecker," rather than the stand-out performance "T2." James DeBello is a lot of fun as Trip, but not quite Jay from the Kevin Smith films (which kinda feels like that's what they were going for). And newcomer Giuseppe Andrews unfortunately gives the weakest performance as the pessimistic worry wort Lex (although some of his ad-libs from the original script are nice).
Porno legend Ron Jeremy himself appears here is an amusing cameo as the disco club MC. And Former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed has a thin and underdone role as the older woman "Mrs. Robinson" who picks Hawk up at a bar. The type of role she plays in the movie is nothing new for her (and certainly not very interesting), but the original scene (which was cut for length) had a lot more to it, and it really shouldn't have been trimmed out.
The boys (and the cast) feels realistic and genuine. Like the cast of "That '70's Show," they're not just wearing the vintage clothes and hairstyles. They genuinely seem to embody the era. The actors, the clothes, the cars, the music, the lingo, the spirit... this is a movie than genuinely feels authentic.
Although, it's not quite flawless, as precious few movies are (People aren't perfect, life isn't perfect. So why would movies be?) The direction is a bit too much a lot of the time. A little goes a long way, and it seems like Rifkin is indulging himself with fancy camera tricks. And it borderlines on motion-sickness and migraine-inducing at times.
And Dupre's screenplay has a lot of trite', warmed-over and and pedestrian comic material, and kind-of-a cobbled together plot that never feels like it's coming from it's source. The characters are great, and so are most of their lines, as well as some of their moments...
There's a great bit where Trip conjures up a hair-brained (at best) scheme to snake a KISS ticket and gets himself in the worst possible scenario. It's fun watching him try to dig his way out.
This album deserves to go quadruple-platinum and sell more copies than anything Michael Jackson or the Beatles ever did. It's a must-have for anyone who remembers the era fondly or just loves the music. It's retro-cool. The only real problem, as I see it, which kept "DRC" from being a classic in the tradition of "American Graffiti" or "Rock 'N' Roll High School" is that... well, it's never really sends up the decade or that age very much. Nor does it to that for any of it's targets (cruel teachers/parents, disco-fans, over-zealous, Bible-thumping Christians, and any other authority figure).
It really could have used some of that period-lacerating satire that "The Simpsons" or "That '70's Show" does so well. But it's more of a love letter to a time of innocence and wonder. Which isn't all bad, but some more name dropping (and name calling towards that long lost decade) would have made all the difference for the better in the world.
Isn't that always the way? Well, as it should be.
--Full of Timeless, Priceless Adolescent Memories and Nostalgia Himself (among other things--you know what), Dane Youssef