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IN SHORT: More fun than you ever expected. [Rated [R], 95 minutes]
Detroit Rock City is not a Kiss concert film. I'm getting that out of the way, lest you pay your cash thinking that it is. It's a story that mimics something that happens to almost everyone, myself included, at least once in a lifetime. Your favorite band [insert name here] is coming to town. You have to get tickets. What will you do to get them? Think about that while I check something in the notes . . .
59 songs from the Seventies (the film is set in 1978), at least 30 of which I got to spin back in my college DJ days. Yes indeedy, once again decrepit old man Cranky sat silently mouthing the words to songs that were significant to him twenty years ago. <sigh> The sad thing is that I've met and/or interviewed Kiss close to half a dozen times, yet I've never seen 'em live in concert. So, now that they're back in makeup (and I saw Ace without it just after he left the band back in '79. What was left of his face was not pretty...) what would Cranky do to kiss up to the powers that be at New Line or Kiss to get connected for tickets? Would he give a solid $8 see it a zillion times rating to a film that would otherwise get a $4 or a $5, putting it around dateflick level for those who look back on the 70s with fondness (or wish they were in the 70s)?
KISS, an acronym of Keep It Simple Stupid (and this band did anything but), hit America at a time when all sorts of rock 'n' roll genres were battling it out: Glam from England, Hard Rock turned Heavy Metal from the States. Kiss melded the two, with the makeup and the full production and rock 'til you bleed sound levels and fan reaction was downright scary. There was also some kind of rivalry with Blue Öyster Cult, which I've never understood and which is referenced in the screenplay by Carl V. DuPré, a man who knows his Kiss trivia.
Simply, in Cleveland 1978 lived a quartet of young men who dreamed of being Kiss. They had a cover band, called Mystery (the "s" being the same as the Kiss logo) and four tickets to a sold out show at Detroit's Cobo Hall. Hawk (Edward Furlong), Lex (Giuseppi Andrews), Trip (James De Bello) and Jeremiah aka "Jam" (Sam Huntington) are your typical of the time teenkids. The only thing in the way of their all night road trip is Jam's mother (Lin Shaye) a hard-assed Mother Against The Music Of Kiss, MOTMA for short. Mrs. Bruce isn't fundamentalist, just hard core Catholic, a firm believer that KissMusic is the work of The Devil and that the band, with their makeup and their tongues was Satan incarnate -- Knights In Satan's Service, dontcha know? When Mrs. B finds their concert tickets, well, so much for that roadtrip. Jam gets thrown into a dungeon of a Catholic Boarding school. Hawk, Lex and Trip have hours to get new tickets, get Jam out, and get to Detroit. Along the way they'll face an ultimate showdown with disco divas and subject themselves to more humiliation and danger than they could ever imagine. Just to score some seats.
Hate to disappoint you folks, but Detroit Rock City was killer. It's a non-stop soundtrack of metal (Kiss, Sweet, AC/DC, BÖC, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, Ramones) and an occasional disco tune pounding away over a pretty simple teenflick. You get a rocker, a stoner and a pair of genuine guys just doing what has to be done to get what they want. Along the way you'll get a vomit scene you won't believe and you'll get to see authority figures taken down a notch or two. One of the boys headlines at a strip bar and there's the occasional bit of gratuitous nudity. This ain't no serious "film" folks. It popcorn pleasure, pure and simple.
The filmmakers liken DRC to the teen-toned beach movies that Annette and Frankie made back in prehistoric times and what's on screen fits that mold. If, indeed, there's a retread of the Seventies underway (and God help us all if that's the case) the teens will rock with their own. Us old folk will have to get the tape, 'cuz most of the songs in the soundtrack aren't on the CD.
Also in the cast, the very talented Natasha Lyonne, as the babe who knows the difference between disco and rock and what they're all good for and Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed as, well, older playmate-studly teen. You figure it out. Everything else is icing on the cake. Four teens. Four attempts to get tickets. 'nuff said.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Detroit Rock City, he would have paid...
Ah hell, can't a guy just lay back and have some fun once and awhile?
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