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Detroit Rock City

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Detroit Rock City

Starring: Edward Furlong, Natasha Lyonne
Director: Adam Rifkin
Rated: R
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: August 1999
Genres: Comedy, Cult

*Also starring: Sam Huntington, James DeBello, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Giuseppe Andrews, Peter Criss

Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

In 1978, when he was still a protégé of Steven Spielberg's, Robert Zemeckis directed a film entitled 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand', named after the hit song by the Beatles and the story revolved around a group of New Jersey teenagers in 1964 who take a road trip to New York City to see the Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show. It gave us a look at their antics as the mischief and misadventures they got into were entertaining as sort of a second class version of 'American Graffiti'. The funny thing about the film was that it worked because it didn't try and do anything else besides entertain. Ditto with 'Detroit Rock City'.

Set in the year 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' was made, 1978, a group of Cleveland teenagers do anything they can to see what they say is the greatest rock and roll band of all time, KISS. There is Hawk (Edward Furlong), Lex (Giuseppe Andrews), Trip (James DeBello) and Jam (Sam Huntington). This quartet of misguided youth sort of grow on you after a while and you'll swear you knew someone like each one of them when you were their age. They have a band entitled Mystery. They illustrate the letter 's' in their band after the letters 's' in KISS and anyone who knows KISS' style of design will know what I'm talking about.

There always seems to be a monkey in the wrench that prevents young people from having a good time and often rebelling because of it. In this case it's Jam's religiously fanatical mother, who says that KISS stands for Knights In Satan's Service. The opening scene has Jam's mother taking out a vinyl record from a cover labeled after the Carpenters and it turns out to be a mix-up as a KISS record plays and Jam's mother goes into a frenzy of anger and frustration. She eventually finds the four tickets the lads have to see KISS down the road a ways along Lake Erie in Detroit and she burns the tickets. After taking a Volvo belonging to one of their parents, they have to find an alternate plan to see the concert and try at every turn to get in and get more and more desperate as the film moves along.

Adam Rifkin, who has directed 'Denial', 'Welcome to Hollywood' and 'The Chase', keeps 'Detroit Rock City' moving along in an extremely leisurely manner. You come out feeling good, as if you've had a vacation. It's also the kind of film that makes you a little embarrassed to admit you like it. The thing that makes the film work more than anything else are the bizarre confrontations. There are Jam's encounters with his mother, the four teenagers confront a group of mean spirited disco lovers on Interstate 90 and there are some hilarious confrontations with anyone who stands in the way of the guys trying to see the concert.

Filmed in Scarborough, Toronto and Hamilton Ontario, Canada, the film looks very authentic in its depiction of the U.S. and the era in which its set, 1978. The mischievous teenagers are convincing and like in every good movie of its kind, one of them is a scene stealer. Writer Carl V. Dupre has the dialogue and style of the late seventies down perfectly. In a decade that gets a lot of ridicule for its fashions and certain music, it also happens to be the decade with some of the best rock music and some of the best movies ever made. Like the seventies, 'Detroit Rock City' turns out to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure as a party film for the summer, but that's all it needs to be and is a refreshing look at teenage antics in a recent slide where so many of them have just plain failed.

Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith

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