I grew up in Michigan in the ’70s, and so I was all primed to see Detroit Rock City. It’s a rowdy B-movie homage to the fantasy-faced, tongue-waggling, moon-booted, power-chord-wielding, demon-clown heavy metal band Kiss. Mostly, it’s about the crazed devotion they inspired with their sublimely horny rock-god anthems and circus-of-hellfire theatrics. The movie, I’m afraid, isn’t going to inspire much devotion. That’s because…it sucks. Here are 10 reasons why:
1 Set in 1978, it’s an utterly fake nostalgia piece – stupid and pandering, a generic bad-boy teen flick that feels less like a loving look at the late ’70s than an extremely bad movie from the late ’70s. Think FM crossed with Thank God It’s Friday!
2 The picture is raucous and meandering. Hawk (Edward Furlong), a Cleveland high schooler, and his three burnout pals land tickets to a Kiss show, lose the tickets (twice), then spend the rest of the film roaming the streets of Detroit, where they come up with assorted hapless schemes to get into the concert.
3 The director, Adam Rifkin, isn’t happy unless each scene features a wide-angle close-up of someone getting punched, bonked in the head, or rubbed against a pizza-smeared windshield.
4 Lin Shaye, who tongue-kissed a dog in There’s Something About Mary, overacts excruciatingly as one of the boys’ moms, a goggle-eyed church lady who thinks Kiss stands for ”Knights in Satan’s Service.”
5 On the road to Detroit, our heroes assault a carful of ”Guidos” and ”Stellas” – grotty polyester disco fans who are made so repellent that the film seems to be bashing Italians even more than it does disco.
6 Edward Furlong is not exactly the first actor I’d have cast to play a ’70s teenager who worships Kiss. He has the limpid stare and pale, ascetic pallor of a future new-wave snob.
7 In the movie’s single worst scene, Hawk wanders into a Chippendales-style club that’s advertising a male strip contest and tries to win the $100 prize. Before his dance, he gets drunk, goes on stage, and vomits into a pitcher, filling it to the brim.
8 Finally, we arrive at the big Kiss concert, where we get to see all of one number (yes, the film’s title track). Why is the sequence shot and edited in such a primitive MTV frenzy? My guess is that it’s so we can’t tell what a tough time Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons (one of the film’s producers), and the others are having strutting their middle-aged stuff in those skintight leather costumes.
9 The biggest insult. After all its rebellious hot air, the movie doesn’t even have the moxie to give us a head-on view of the ultimate Kiss moment: Simmons, superhero of the unholy, puking blood. Instead, we see it in timid jump-cut flashes.
10 In the end, Detroit Rock City inspires only one reaction. It makes you want to say to everyone associated with it: Kiss off. D – Owen Gleiberman
Detroit Rock City STARRING Edward Furlong Lin Shaye NEW LINE RATED R 94 MINUTES