Detroit Rock City

Directed by Adam Rifkin
Starring: Edward Furlong, Natasha Lyonne, Sam Huntington, James DeBello, Giuseppe Andrews, Lin Shaye.
MPAA Rating: R or strong language, drug use and sex-related content.

Review by Matt Heffernan
August 14, 1999

Several films have been made recently that look back on America in the late 1970's. Most of them, like Boogie Nights, 54, and Summer of Sam, focus on the disco culture. But not everybody was into that scene. Especially not boys, ages 9 to 17 -- they were largely part of the "KISS Army", devoting themselves to the most garish and extravagant rock 'n roll band ever.

In suburban Ohio, four teenage boys have formed a KISS tribute band called "Mystery". On the day that Hawk (Edward Furlong), Jeremiah (Sam Huntington), Lex (Guiseppe Andrews), and Trip (James DeBello) are bound for a KISS concert in Detroit, their tickets are burned by Jeremiah's mother (Lin Shaye). She is part of a christian group that is against KISS, and the "satanic" influence they have over young people. Trip calls a radio station and wins four more tickets, so they break Jeremiah ("Jam", as he is called by the band) out of a boarding school he is sent to, and head for Detroit.

When they get there, it turns out they were disqualified, so each of them goes on their own to get tickets on the streets of downtown Detroit. From there, the film shifts between each of the four boys, and the comic perils they go through.

Detroit Rock City is a surprisingly good-natured comedy. The movie has several big laughs, especially when Hawk enters a stripping contest to earn $100 so that he can buy tickets from a scalper. The Master of Ceremonies is none other than porn legend Ron Jeremy, and Shannon Tweed also has a cameo as the older woman that makes a man out of Hawk. Also thrown in is Natasha Lyonne, as a disco girl the boys pick up on the road. Just like in American Pie, she elevates the film from its otherwise conventional teen comedy premise.

Adam Rifkin does a fine job of directing, showing great improvement since 1994's The Chase. He balances film well, allowing each of the four leads to have their own moment in the spotlight. Also behind the camera is Gene Simmons, KISS's bassist, in his first producing effort, along with appearing as himself. In fact, the entire original band performs their hit song "Detroit Rock City", with their famous makeup hiding the last twenty years.

This film is certain to please the now thirtysomething members of the KISS Army. No doubt, many of them will see themselves on the screen. If anything, it's certainly a lot better than the band's last film: KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Detroit Rock City (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan