Detroit Rock City
Facts and Figures
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th August 1999
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 21
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Detroit Rock City Movie Review
In 1978, those gratifying but decidedly untalented hard-rock circus clowns known as KISS made a rotten yet strangely enjoyable Z-grade sci-fi flick called "KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park."
In it, the leather and spike-attired, goth-metal band members pathetically cue-carded their way through hero roles in which their famous greasepaint gave them superpowers which they used to battle alien invaders at an amusement park in between terribly staged songs. But they knew the movie stunk. The audience knew the movie stunk. It was part of the fun.
Twenty-one years later comes "Detroit Rock City," another KISS-centric movie that focuses -- wisely or unwisely, take your pick -- on the band's sadly dimwitted, white trash fan base instead of on the band itself.
The random and near-plotless misadventures of a quartet of Beavis and Butthead-styled high school stoners trying to score tickets to the big KISS concert, "City" isn't as bad, or as much dumb fun, as the band's earlier celluloid outing. But unlike "Phantom of the Park," it refuses (unfortunately) to acknowledge -- let alone embrace -- its idiocy.
It's fairly evident that unapologetically low-brow director Adam Rifkin ("The Chase") must have been one of these brain damaged dudes in the '70s, since he honestly wants us to identify with these losers, who are the movie's heroes only by merit of having their musical freedom of choice quashed by unfairly conservative adults.
Played all too well by Edward Furlong ("Pecker"), Giuseppe Andrews ("Never Been Kissed"), Sam Huntington ("Jungle2Jungle"), and movie rookie James DeBello, these dolts dumb-luck their way through a sloppy, soundtrack-and-sight-gags script that seems to have been inspired by a few too many bong hits. Most of the loosely strung together scenes -- many of which do little more than demonstrate the extent to which this guys will go to see KISS -- probably had their inception in ideas that started with the question "Wouldn't it be funny if...?"
More often than not the answer is no, which is a pity because some pretty good performances -- especially from Furlong, Huntington and Natasha Lyonne ("Slums of Beverly Hills"), as a disco chick hitchhiker -- are wasted on this energetic but futile fable.
The movie's saving grace is its antagonist, the venomous, Jesus freak mother of one of the boys who screams abusively and spits scripture in her quest to save her son from "the devil's music!"
Played by the fearless Lin Shaye -- the leather-skinned, dog-smooching neighbor in "There's Something About Mary" -- she is so hilariously hateful that you want to just jump through the screen and smack her. She's a character only an evangelist could love, and Shaye nails her with persnickety perfection.