Adam Rifkins’ “Detroit Rock City” is the movie in the vein of “Rock n Roll High School” that seeks to unabashedly pay tribute to the magic of KISS and how they inspire four guys to travel across the country and break the law for them. Because they’re so fucking awesome, you see. Hawk (Edward Furlong), Lex (Giuseppe Andrews), Trip (James DeBello), and “Jam” (Sam Huntington) are four of the most hardcore KISS fans alive and are preparing to travel to Detroit to see the band in concert. Sadly, Jam’s Conservative Christian mother discovers the tickets he and his friends bought, and burn them. Anxious to find more tickets, the foursome win a call in contest but are so excited they hang up on the DJ before they can give them their names, disqualifying them.
Oblivious to the error, they break friend “Jam” out from school and they drive to Detroit, experiencing various misadventures including a confrontation with a rabid gang of Disco fans, and a group of thugs with KISS make up led by a snively young boy. When they find out they’ve arrived in Detroit and aren’t getting their tickets, they split up to find money or a source for tickets before the big concert. “Detroit Rock City” takes that brief resurgence of KISS in the late nineties and tries to engineer a time capsule in the vein of “Dazed and Confused” or “Bye Bye Birdie,” but it’s not much of a blip on the radar of those vastly superior movies. For one thing, “Detroit Rock City” feels like another cog in the KISS publicity machine, and another is that KISS barely shows up in what is a movie paying tribute to them.
Surely, we get to hear a lot of their music played during the film, and there is also insight in to the obscene amount of merchandise they produced for “fans.” KISS only really appear for one brief performance in the film further heightening this idea throughout the movie that they’re godlike and incapable of commuting with fans. Gene Simmons only appears for a second, but at least Shannon Tweed gets to do something. That’s… just as good? One big compliment I give “Detroit Rock City” is that when our characters are allowed to split up and grow, their adventures not only end up being quite entertaining, but the various ways the writers associate KISS is creative. I especially enjoy Edward Furlong’s sub-plot involving him dancing at a strip club for middle aged women to “Strutter.”
There he attracts the attention of buxom middle aged beauty Shannon Tweed (Gene Simmons’ Wife) who gets to share a sweet moment in her car. I also enjoy Jam’s sub-plot involving his high school crush Beth (named after the awful ballad) and their rendezvous in a church. Granted, “Detroit Rock City” is by no means a masterpiece; hell, it’s barely a great movie, but it packs in enough talent, fun, and healthy delusions only KISS fans are capable of. I’m still not sure if the big movement of the characters protesting KISS would never and will never make a Disco song is meant to ironic or sincere. I mean, KISS would make any kind of song as long as it guaranteed them a profit.