Detroit Rock City Review

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Four teens form a high-school band called Mystery, but their real passion is for KISS - and when they hear that their heroes are playing in Detroit, they load up on booze and dope and head off to the concert - despite the fact that they don't actually have tickets.


Pitched somewhere between the ironic stereotyping of Wayne's World and the ribald tomfoolery of Porky's, this adolescent romp makes a change from the same year's glut of high school comedies, in that a) it's set 20 years ago (that's pre-'dude'), and b) it may appeal not just to the spot-squeezing community, but to thirtysomethings who were there.

In 1978, the Disco Wars raged: you either dug heavy rock or KC & The Sunshine Band (punk didn't reach American shores until about 1989). Our four Midwestern teenage heroes - Hawk (Furlong), Lex (Andrews), Trip (De Bello) and Jam (Huntington) - kneel at the shrine of face-painted New York panto-rockers, KISS. They skip school, defy their parents, load up on dope and drive to Detroit for a Kiss concert, despite having no tickets; thus the bulk of the story traces their individual journeys as each attempts to procure one (Hawk strips for money at a hen club, proto-slacker Trip mugs a child, and so on).

All looks grim, but you just kinda know they'll be in the front row making devil's horns before the end credits. After all, all four members of Kiss are in it - and under the warpaint, you'd never know they were about 49.

Cruel, fast-paced, slapstick fun with an ace rock soundtrack, the film has many strengths - Furlong (very different from his usual dozy innocents), a script which mostly steers this side of facile gross-out (though there's a cheerleader on the toilet and a prolonged vomit for the brain-free), plus some deft technique from little-known director Rifkin: most impressively, a shot from inside KISS guitarist Gene Simmons' mouth! Ultimately, however, it's little more than cultural porn, a teenage wank-fantasy ('Better than the first time I got to finger a chick!') with too many unchecked references to 'fags'. Not everything about 1978 was rockin'.

Loud, raucous, wild and a little raunchy, this is very much like KISS themselves - but it also falls too often on the wrong side of teen fantasy to really succeed as the cross-generational comedy it was obviously meant to be.