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PopGap #29: Detroit Rock City (1999)

PopGap #29: Detroit Rock City (1999)

Written by dorrk
18 June 2017

Hey you little twerps, give me your KISS tickets or I'll pop your faces in.

While the humor in Detroit Rock City may dwell on the usual adolescent hijinks and uninspired slapstick, Adam Rifkin's entry into both the teen rock comedy and one-crazy-night genres is teeming with an affectionate stupidity that manages to be both enthusiastically juvenile and wholesomely depraved.

As four high school bandmates try to get their hands on an elusive set of tickets for that night's KISS concert, they encounter typical teen movie rites of passage — heavy drinking, standing up to parents, losing a car, sex — but the novel element that Detroit Rock City offers during its unique climax is a refreshing rejection of the incipient maturity that concludes so many coming-of-age films, opting instead for an honest embracing of the blunt, devil-may-care rambunctiousness of heavy metal music and the youths who adore it.

Many period comedies take a cheap and cloying approach to the nostalgic trappings of the filmmaker's youth, but Rifkin's evocation of 1978 is so energetic, with plentiful detail perfectly packed into every scene, that there isn't time to begrudge any clumsiness in this aspect. Detroit Rock City is so visually clever and briskly paced throughout that, even if it doesn't reach the same levels of wit or absurdity, its spirited anti-authoritarianism makes it a worthy torch-bearer for Allan Arkush's great anarchic music comedies from two decades earlier, Rock 'N' Roll High School and Get Crazy.

There's a great soundtrack — tapping into the same artery as Guardians of the Galaxy's popular mix tapes — and perfect-fit performances by the likes of Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington, Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Lin Shaye, Melanie Lynskey, Natasha Lyonne and Emmanuelle Chriqui — even though the women are given too little screentime. Plenty of fun cameos, too, from KISS, Shannon Tweed (long-time partner of Gene Simmons), Joe Flaherty, Ron Jeremy, and Kevin Corrigan (and maybe even Dave Grohl).

Detroit Rock City was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Flickcharter Ryan Swinimer, who can be found on Flickchart under the username Swinny. He ranks it on his chart at #195 / 5602 (97%), putting it at #17 on his chart of 212 Teen Movies. Detroit Rock City ranked on my Flickchart at #1253 (67%), where it's my #36 favorite Teen Movie out of 175.

PopGap #29: Detroit Rock City (1999)

Trailer for Detroit Rock City (1999)