ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 12, 1999
By Steve Newton
Despite the plot similarities—both movies are about teenage twits hell-bent on seeing their greasepaint-laden glam-rock idols in the flesh—Detroit Rock City is no Wayne’s World. For starters, Wayne’s World had two talented comedians, Saturday Night Live’s Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. Detroit Rock City has the overrated Edward Furlong—still coasting on his Terminator 2 fame—and three other guys you’ve never heard of. And while Wayne’s World had a goofy innocence that helped it succeed as a coming-of-age comedy, director Adam Rifkin’s Detroit Rock City has a crude, obnoxious tone that doesn’t.
Like KISS’s music, it’s juvenile, crass, bombastic, and loud.
The 1978-set movie opens on a strong note as a Kiss-hating, Bible-thumping mom (Lin Shaye, from There’s Something About Mary) is driven bonkers when her Carpenters LP is switched with Kiss’s Love Gun. Then we meet the four rock-crazed Midwestern youths—surly Hawk (Furlong), sensitive Jam (Sam Huntington), worrisome Lex (Giuseppe Andrews), and psychotic Trip (James De Bello)—whose only immediate goal in life is to see KISS play a sold-out show at Detroit’s Cobo Hall the next night. The hapless quartet must overcome all manner of obstacles—everything from ornery high-school hall monitors to macho disco freaks—just to reach the Motor City by showtime. Once they get there, they split up in search of some way into the gig and go through various rites of passage to prove themselves worthy of witnessing the almighty Kiss. (The vainglorious Gene Simmons coproduced this 90-minute homage to himself and his band.)
This is where the movie gets ugly, as we watch a shit-faced Hawk puke up an entire beer jug of yellow vomit before competing in a stripping contest to try to earn enough cash for a scalper’s ticket. Not surprisingly, the pale twerp loses, but he catches the eye of a wealthy floozy (Simmons’s girlfriend Shannon Tweed), who takes him out to her car for some pity-driven humpy-humpy.
While the questionable careers of Furlong and Tweed are left to flounder even more, Lex tries to sneak into the gig as a roadie, Trip threatens to beat up small kids for their tickets, and Jam loses his virginity in a confessional to a classmate named Beth. Needless to say, the four guys finally regroup and gain access to the concert, so we get to see the pasty-faced KISS of today perform the movie’s title track in a blinding barrage of lightning-fast edits.
It’s hardly worth the wait, though.
KISS Army holdouts might want to pass up Detroit Rock City for a rental of the band’s original flick, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. It’s a 1978 TV movie with Anthony Zerbe as a mad scientist/amusement-park owner out to clone the foursome for evil purposes, so it’s gotta be better than this.