Sam takes a look at why Detroit Rock City just rocks so damn hard in this installment of Movies that Rule.
The first scene shows a middle age woman getting out a Carpenters vinyl and setting it up on her turntable. She then sits down on a big, comfy easy chair, sits back and relaxes with a glass of wine. But somehow she put a KISS album on by mistake (or somehow the Carpenters album just magically turned into a KISS album on its b-side, I’m not really sure) and the awesome sounds of sex, drugs, and rock n roll come through the woman’s home stereo. She freaks out, spills the wine and runs over to the turntable to turn off this awful music. But, oh no! The volume knob broke off! And now she can’t open up the turntable cover to get the vinyl out; it’s stuck! Maybe she can pull out the plug! But it’s just out of reach! NOOOO! Don’t be alarmed, my writing style didn’t go to the birds; I’m just trying to emulate the sheer chaos that somehow ensues in the scene when a middle-aged woman accidentally listens to a KISS album. The shelves shake, and her decorations fall off and break until finally she manages to make the turntable skip to the end. At which point, the plastic cover shoots open after being locked down and she can remove the rogue LP. We’re then introduced to our four heroes (Lex, Trip, Hawk, and Jam) rocking out in a basement singing “I Want to Rock n Roll” by KISS. And even though they’re playing their hearts out, they suck. The singing is terrible. They can’t make a chord change to save their life, and I’m not sure if the drummer knows what a fill really even is. But that’s what makes me (and hopefully everyone else) love these teenaged hellions; The fact that they don’t give a shit about how bad they sound is as rock n roll (and punk) as it gets. All they want to do is hang out, see KISS live, and play their favorite songs. What’s cooler than that?
Remember that woman that freaked out in the beginning of the movie? It turns out that that woman is Jam’s extremely religious mom. She believes that KISS is the devil’s music and that KISS actually stands for “Knights in Satan’s Service”. (Which would be completely metal if it were true). She shows up at the house that the guys are playing in and gets Jam to leave the basement (after a quick job of spraying the room to mask the smell of weed) since she’s furious after discovering her son listens to KISS. She then drags Jam off and throws the LP into the trash. The camera zooms in on the vinyl and we see the artwork of KISS on the album. Then the opening theme rolls out and, at this point, I am so in for this movie I don’t even care how ridiculous it gets.
The rest of the movie’s plot is centered on the four boys trying to get tickets to see KISS live in Detroit after they get out of their last day of school. They had four tickets, but Jam’s mom found them and burned them up right in front of her own son’s face. (His mom is a total asshole in the whole movie in case you hadn’t made that conclusion yet). So the boys then try to get the tickets by any means necessary. Trip (arguably the coolest and dumbest of the bunch) wins a radio contest but forgets to give his information in his excitement so the radio station had to give them away. Lex (the lead singer of the group and de facto leader of the group) uses his body to get money for a scalper. Jam eventually grows a pair and stands up to his mom. And Hawk just sort of tries to get in as a stage tech but fucks up some equipment and gets thrown out. He then rescues a girl that they picked up on the way to Detroit. (Oh yeah, that chick comes from a scene where the boys fuck with some “guidos” and “stellas” who are riding their ass on the freeway and eventually beat them up after declaring KISS are lame for wearing so much make up. There’s another scene that completely rules.) And finally, in the most intense part of the movie, Trip stands up to an armed robber who is trying to rob a convenience store and manages to wrestle away the robber’s shotgun with a Stretch Armstrong toy he took from some kids. (Oh, Trip is a total bully. But we eventually see that he does have a heart.)
But after all the antics, the kids can’t get the tickets they need. But they’ve come so far. They’ve all been through so much. They can’t give up yet! And they don’t. In fact, they come up with an absolutely batshit-insane idea to get in: they decide to beat themselves up and act like they got mugged and got their tickets stolen. So after they beat themselves bloody in one of the coolest scenes I’ve seen in movie history. (Four friends absolutely brawling out? It doesn’t get better than that.) They go up to the security guards, but they’re not buying it. But Trip points out 4 other people that actually did mug Trip back at the convenience store (after Trip had to save it with the powers of Stretch Armstrong), and since they had his wallet and photo ID in it, the security guards believe them. They didn’t actually steal the tickets, but karma still bites them in the ass and our four teenage heroes are able to finally get into to see the greatest rock and roll band of all time.
At this point I haven’t really talked about the movie itself. But the thing is that’s not what makes the movie rule. I mean, the production is pretty good. Everyone does a fairly decent job of acting. There are some very funny lines from the characters, especially when Trip disses disco by saying “Disco blows dogs for quarters…man!” (I just have to say me and my girlfriend could not stop laughing after that line. It got so bad that we actually had to pause the movie because we couldn’t hear anything else. I am in no way revealing where that line is in the movie. It’s just too off the wall. It comes out of nowhere and is delivered so… ridiculously that it just makes it so goddamn funny. It’s my new favorite insult for any and everything.) And the plot itself, while pretty unbelievable at times (okay, I’ll admit it, some of it is just straight up insane and would only happen in a movie), is actually pretty well written and it keeps the movie rockin’ and rollin’ along. (That joke is so bad, it’s staying in.) And that’s really why this movie rules.
When you watch a movie, you want to be entertained. I respect Schindler’s List as a movie immensely, but that is not a movie I want to watch on a Tuesday night just to wind down. I want a movie where I don’t have to think. I want a movie where the jokes are funny and the plotline is dubious at best. And Detroit Rock City delivers on that with no problem. And that’s why this movie rules. It’s not about the production, the acting, or the directing. It’s about the sheer awesomeness of an adventure that four punk teenagers embark on while trying to see their favorite band of all time. It’s about growing up and finding your identity. It’s about conquering your fears and doing what it takes to succeed. But ultimately, it’s about rocking your face off. And this movie, most definitely, melts faces.
Detroit Rock City will never go down as the best movie of all time. It will never go down as the worst either. It probably won’t even be considered the best rock-band based comedy of all time. But what it is the best at, is being absolutely and unapologetically “rock n roll”. If you’ve seen this movie before, watch it again. I guarantee there will be a few choice scenes you forgot about. And if you haven’t seen it, go pick it up now and discover a movie that rocks the hardest out of any other movie ever. And that includes movies that haven’t been made yet. Don’t believe me? Come back in 10 years and try and tell me I’m wrong. I’ll bet money you can’t.
Sam has been a KISS fan ever since he learned about them back in high school. He loves the songs, the attitudes, and just how insane it was that a group of Jewish boys decided to dress up and put on make-up to rock off the faces of everyone in the entire world. He was an idiot for thinking he didn’t need to see Detroit Rock City. Follow his shenanigans on the Twitter @samcar455. And follow the HefferBrew twitter @HefferBrew for more Movies that Rule and other awesome articles.