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Detroit Rock City
One of the ways one can tell whether or not a movie made for a very niche audience works is if the manner in which the story and the characters are executed still resonate with audiences who don't fit into the narrow market the film is desperately catering to. That's why I know that Detroit Rock City works, because although not being a Kiss fan in the slightest (In fact I always found them to be quite annoying and inconsequential to the mythos of classic rock. Come at me, Kiss Army), I always have a blast watching it.
Written by Carl V. Dupre and directed by Adam Rifkin, both die-hard Kiss fans, Detroit Rock City does a great job at becoming a loving tribute to the band while constructing a simple yet charming and giddily boisterous high school rock comedy about a quartet of friends doing anything they humanly can to score tickets to a mega concert by their favorite band, The Village People (Just kidding, it's Kiss of course).
The story takes place in 1978, which makes sense since the late 70s was when Kiss ruled the world. This is one of those films about the 70s that gleefully fetishizes the period as every known pop-culture item from the time is on display here, from the disco vs. rock battles to Stretch Armstrong. Rifkin gives his film an over the top look that resembles more of an idealized version of the period depicted through unashamed nostalgia glasses than a more realistic visual approach. This style fits Detroit Rock City's goofy characters and storylines that border on self-parody.
The simple yet clear goal of the four protagonists, Lex (Guiseppe Andrews), Trip (James De Bello), Hawk (Edward Furlong) and Jam (Sam Huntington), is cleverly divided in separate sections for each of the three acts, therefore making sure that the audience does not get tired from watching events take place in the same location.
The first act focuses on the gang coming up with ways to trick their parents and their school so they can drive out of their small town and into Detroit to attend the concert. During the second act, after an insanely dumb mistake by Trip, the gang has to split up and survive wacky adventures in search of tickets. The third act shall not be spoiled by yours truly, but if you're a huge Kiss fan (In which case, you should own or at the very least have seen Detroit Rock City already anyway), you won't be disappointed.
The four actors understand the light tone of the film and deliver performances that find a sweet spot between relatable and cartoony. Rifkin also has a deft command of the film's tone and visual style through and through. As long as one doesn't expect a more immersive high school nostalgia piece like American Graffiti or Dazed and Confused, there's a lot of fun to be had in Detroit Rock City.
The 1080p transfer perfectly retains the film's colorful 70s look without any obvious video noise, scratches or dirt on the video presentation. This is a catalogue release that stays true to the style of the original project while bringing it fully into the HD world.
Since it's a film fully immersed in the music of Kiss, as well as late 70s classic rock, it's no surprise that Detroit Rock City sports an awesome rock soundtrack that should please fans of this type of music. I'm one of those fans and had a blast as all of the channels of my surround system were filled with the likes of Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy and yes, lots and lots of Kiss. The excellent DTS-HD 5.1 track is reason enough to upgrade from a DVD.
The original DVD edition of Detroit Rock City came with tons of extras, all of which are ported over to Blu-Ray. Unfortunately, there aren't any new features.
Commentary by Adam Rifkin: Out of the three commentaries, if you're looking for an informative one about the production, this is the one to listen to.
Commentary by The Cast: The cast goofs around, which works more like an unprofessional Rifftrax commentary than a serious take on the film.
Commentary by Kiss: The band members give their thoughts on the film. For die-hard fans only.
The Cutting Room Floor: We get unused footage from the concert during the finale, as well as some other tidbits left out of the film.
Deleted Scenes: A whopping 19-minutes of deleted material, most of which provide amusing moments with side characters.
Look Into The Sun: A trippy behind-the-scenes featurette that can be annoying at times but is fun nevertheless.
Miscellaneous Shit: 37 minutes of random interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Music Videos: Two videos from Everclear and The Donnas.
We also get a Trailer.
Detroit Rock City still holds up as a balls-to-the-wall romp, a comedy built around a very simple premise that milks it dry in all the right ways. It's irreverent, goofy and is not to be taken very seriously, sort of like Kiss itself.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com