[Screen It]


(1999) (Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Extreme Moderate Extreme Minor Mild
Moderate None Mild None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Moderate Minor Mild Moderate

Comedy: In 1978, four rebellious Cleveland teenagers set out on a quest to obtain tickets for a concert by the rock group KISS.
It's 1978 Cleveland and Hawk (EDWARD FURLONG), Lex (GIUSEPPE ANDREWS), Jam (SAM HUNTINGTON) and Trip (JAMES DE BELLO) are four rebellious teenagers who can't wait to attend a KISS concert in Detroit. They're absolute fanatics and love everything about the hard rock band.

The only obstacle to their rock 'n' roll nirvana, however, is Jam's mom, Mrs. Bruce (LIN SHAYE), an overbearing, ultra-religious parent who believes that KISS stands for "Knights in Satan's Service." Upon finding their concert tickets in Jam's room, she burns them and sends Jam off to a reform school.

Determined not to make this the third year in a row that they've missed the concert, the remaining guys luck out when Trip wins four tickets and backstage passes to the concert. The guys then head off to Detroit, stopping along the way to pick up Jam and a roadside girl, Christine (NATASHA LYONNE), who got tired of her macho disco friends after they had a run in with Hawk and his buddies.

Upon arriving in the motor city, however, the guys discover that they don't have tickets and thus set out to find new ones with only an hour or so to spare/ As they proceed through various plans and obstacles, as well as Jam's brief fling with fellow student, Beth (MELANIE LYNSKEY), and Hawk's similar pairing with an older woman, Amanda Finch (SHANNON TWEED), the guys realize they'll have to take extreme measures to get into the concert.

A rock 'n' roll/sophomoric comedy about four rebellious teens and the rock group KISS may draw in a fair number of teenagers.
For strong language, drug use and sex-related content.
Considering the profanity, drug use and rebellious attitude portrayed by the four main male characters, it's doubtful many parents would consider them to be good role models. As far as the women go, the same holds true with two of them (one a student, the other an older woman) having sex with the guys, with another disco girl briefly smoking a joint with them.


OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
For anyone who considers themselves a "fan," they should know that the descriptive noun is simply an abbreviation of "fanatic," which is defined as "a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm." Among the varied assortment of fans out there in the world, few are as diligent or hardcore as those obsessed with certain rock groups or performers.

That was especially true back in the days before cable and MTV (yes, back when people had to get up and change TV channels by hand) when one's only real chance of seeing a favorite band was a chance appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" or "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert." Of course if you were lucky enough, you might have had the opportunity to see them in person during one of their rock concert tours.

That's the underlying gist of "Detroit Rock City," a hyperactive, but lowbrow coming of age story about four Cleveland fans who travel to Detroit and will do anything to attend a KISS concert. Aimed squarely at the teen audience -- as well as older, die-hard fans of that group who are brave enough to admit their past or possibly still current passion -- this is yet another film where crudity, vulgarity and bad taste are used -- sometimes successfully -- to elicit laughs and entertain the audience -- when not otherwise filling the story's gaping holes.

For those either too young, or for that matter, too old to know who/what KISS is, they're another one of those "dinosaur" bands from the 1970s who've yet to realize it's probably time to hang up their guitars. Best known for their hard rock anthems and elaborate stage makeup and costumes (that were shelved for a while but now seem to have returned), the quartet sold millions of albums during their heyday and battled the onslaught and influence of disco at the end of that decade.

In fact, for those who grew up during that period or are simply fond of the great musical diversity of the era, the film's soundtrack is its strongest point and nearly makes the film worth sitting through by itself. Covering a wide range of music (beyond the KISS songs and the obligatory disco tunes), those sounds remind one of a time before rapid-fire, MTV-style editing and camera moves, when scenes and shots were usually a bit more static.

That's certainly not to be found in this film. Shot in a hyperkinetic, but haphazard style by director Adam Rifkin ("The Chase," "The Dark Backward" and who also penned "Mouse Hunt" and "Small Soldiers") and cinematographer John R. Leonetti ("The Mask," "Mortal Kombat"), this film is the antithesis of subtle filmmaking. At times, it's also quite reminiscent of the wild camera antics found in some of the films from acclaimed director Sam Raimi ("Darkman").

Why such rapid camera movement is accompanied by swooshing sounds isn't exactly clear -- although it reminds one of the sounds heard in those old martial arts films where kicks and punches had similar aural accompaniment -- but they and the combination of other frenzied filmmaking elements clearly keep the film viscerally stimulating and certainly far from boring (although some may think of all of that as irritating instead).

That's a good thing (not the irritating point, but that it's energetic) since the script -- courtesy of screenwriter Carl V. Dupre (making his feature film debut) -- doesn't offer much in the way of clever complications for the foursome, let alone any sophisticated comedy or much in the way of real characterizations or subsequent related development.

Essentially a cross between a road movie and the old "After Hours" plot (where continual complications comically plague a character at night), the film's setup offers plenty of potential for the filmmakers to make a smart and/or clever look at growing up in the 70s. While the opening credits and the included "historical" visual references make one think that's what to follow, unfortunately little of that ever appears.

From the moment Jam's mother deliberately puts an old Carpenters album on the turntable -- in a scene where the payoff takes too long since we immediately know what the "punch line" will be -- and then goes crazy trying to stop the "infernal music" instead of simply lifting the tone arm from the LP, it's quite obvious that we're not going to be treated to any sophisticated humor.

Instead, there's the voluminous projectile vomiting scene, the collapsing bathroom stall sequence and plenty of easy, but certainly not novel pot shots at organized religion. While a few of those scenes are funny, the degree of which, however, will vary depending on one's age and level of maturity -- the lower of either and the funnier the material will become, such sophomoric humor is simply starting to grow tiresome due to the overabundance of it in today's movies. The motto "been there, seen that" has never been so true as with this picture.

Nonetheless, and perhaps due to the sheer hyperactive filmmaking approach actually wearing down my defenses, I surprisingly found myself somewhat slightly becoming less critical of the proceedings in the third act. While nothing new or clever occurred during this time, the film managed to pull off a bit of the old "dumb and dumber" charm that made it easier to sit through.

Some of that can obviously be attributed to the lowest common denominator performances by the young quartet of lead actors. While Edward Furlong ("American History X," "Terminator 2 - Judgment Day"), Giuseppe Andrews ("The Other Sister," "Never Been Kissed") and James De Bello ("American Pie") deliver about what's expected of them from a film like this, it was Sam Huntington ("Jungle2Jungle") who steals the show. For whatever reason, he does a decent job capturing the goofy essence of the not-so-bright 70s blond teen who's still trying to figure and sort out his life.

Supporting performances are varied, with Natasha Lyonne ("The Slums of Beverly Hills," "Everyone Says I Love You") being pretty much wasted in a small role as a disco babe, former Playboy centerfold turned actress Shannon Tweed ("Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death") appearing as the "older woman" and Lin Shaye (the older tanned woman in "There's Something About Mary"), giving an inspired, if not original take on a maternal and religious zealot. Not to be forgotten, the longstanding members of KISS also show up for some concluding concert footage, but seem to have lost that magical allure they once held when they were a bit more fresh.

Had the film offered a more fun road trip plot filled with better and obviously more hilarious complications, the picture definitely would have been far more enjoyable. Beyond a great soundtrack, however, and some lowbrow humor that's occasionally funny, as well as a few 70s references that may stir up some memories, this rock 'n' roll picture show isn't that memorable itself. While KISS fans might get a kick heading down this specific memory lane, there's not much here to appease the average moviegoer. For all of those reasons, we give "Detroit Rock City" a 3.5 out of 10.

Here's a brief look at the content found in this R-rated, rock 'n' roll comedy. Profanity is extreme with more than 80 "f" words as well as plenty of other profanities and "colorful phrases" being uttered. The characters occasionally smoke pot, the guys lace a priest's pizza with hallucinogenic mushrooms, and one of them drinks enough to get violently ill. Cigarette smoking also occurs.

That vomit scene makes up most of the scatological humor, although other instances of related body-based humor are present, and the four guys' faces are rather bloody after they pummel each other to make it look like they were robbed.

Other moments of imitative behavior and violence (with comic undertones and/or intentions) also occur, as do bad attitudes from the main characters and others (with some viewers possibly taking offense at the way religion and religious people are portrayed).

Several sexual encounters take place (the explicit stuff does so off screen and one occurs in a confessional). Some bare-breasted women are briefly seen at various moments while some men's nearly bare butts are also seen. Some sexual talk occurs and we briefly see the covers of some porno magazines (including one that's nearly rather explicit).

Other categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable content. However, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness -- particularly since the picture seems like it will appeal to teens -- you may want to take a closer look at the listed content.

Of special note for those concerned with bright, repetitive flashes of light on the screen, a moment of that does occur in the film.

  • Mrs. Bruce spills what looks like a glass of wine on her.
  • We see some beer bottles/cans and a bong in one of the guy's basements and one of them even says "It smells like dope in here" as Mrs. Bruce comes their way (and they thus spray mouth freshener into their mouths).
  • As the guys are complaining about their moms, one of them says to Trip that at least his mom didn't have him while she was on LSD. Trip then corrects him stating it was "shrooms" (mushrooms). Hawk then states that if wasn't for one of their mothers, they wouldn't have had the chance to have just smoked "some fine Panama" pot.
  • Trip briefly lights up a joint in the girls' bathroom and then swallows it when he hears someone coming.
  • Mrs. Bruce tells her son "that God forbid" he ever have a son like himself that "smokes the dope."
  • The guys lace a priest's pizza with hallucinogenic mushrooms so that they can retrieve Jam. The priest reacts to the first hit of the mushrooms, takes a drink of wine and then hallucinates.
  • We see Trip rolling his own joint. He then lights it and his three buddies then pass it around. Although Christine initially declines their offer, she eventually takes a drag herself after inhaling the smoke filling the car. Later, she appears to be passed out from this.
  • A man tells one of the guys that people will be passing around joints in the concert.
  • In a strip club, a bartender gives Hawk a bourbon on the rocks (courtesy of an older woman who's bought it for him). He takes a gulp and then spits it out. Later, however, he appears quite drunk from drinking them and we then see him get violently ill from that.
  • People drink at a party and we see what looks like a champagne fountain (such glasses stacked several feet high).
  • A man drinks from a flask.
  • The following scatological material/humor is present:
  • In school, Hawk tells the others, "As they say in the tampon business, see you next period."
  • As the four guys hide in a stall in the girls' bathroom, a girl sits down in the one next to them (we see her panties around her ankles. We then hear bathroom sounds from her, and when all of the stalls break and fall to the floor, we again see her sitting on the toilet (but don't see any nudity).
  • Trying to get out of class, Trip tells the teacher he has to go to the bathroom and we then see a wet spot forming on his crotch (but then see that it's rigged, with a small water pump he's holding behind him that's attached to a tube going around to his crotch).
  • We hear a priest belch.
  • We see Hawk do some projectile vomiting into a beer pitcher, eventually filling the large container with vomit after several heaves.
  • As far as "regular" bloodletting, the following occurs:
  • To make it look they were mugged, the guys beat each other up with many punches that draw lots of blood. As such, each of their faces is rather bloody. Later, Jam spits out some blood.
  • One of the KISS members has fake blood run from his mouth during a performance.
  • The four main guys show little respect for others (particularly adults) as they act rather rebellious.
  • Jam's mother is overbearing and doesn't let him live his life the way he wants (or least should as a teen). Later, he uses profanity to describe exactly what kind of lousy mother he thinks she is.
  • Some viewers may take offense at the way Christians are comically portrayed here (Mrs. Bruce being a whacked out, over conservative mom -- A priest wanting to hear and then being aroused by "juicy" confessions -- Another priest taking money out of the donation box to pay for a pizza delivery and then hallucinating and cursing after eating a hallucinogenic mushroom laced pizza -- Sam having sex in a confessional, etc...).
  • As the four guys try to hide in a bathroom stall in the girls' bathroom, they then decide to peek over the top and look down at a girl sitting on the toilet next to them (no nudity).
  • The guys -- including Lex -- borrow Lex's mom's car without her knowledge.
  • Hawk calls a disco person a "Guido."
  • Noticing that Christine appears to be passed out from pot inhalation, Trip says, "Let's lift up her skirt."
  • Trip comments that they could beat up some little kids to get their tickets. Later, he tries to intimidate several kids regarding that, but his efforts fail.
  • Lex tries sneaking into the concert.
  • A thug tries to rob a convenience store at gunpoint.
  • Some chop-shop thugs have not only stolen the guys' car, but also have abducted Christine and are making lecherous remarks and advances toward her.
  • Although it's played for laughs, it's possible some might find a scene where Trip and a thief wrestle over the thief's shotgun (or when he aims it at others) as somewhat suspenseful.
  • The same holds true for Lex's encounter with some menacing dogs, and then for some chop- shop men being lecherous toward Christine whom they have tied up in their shop.
  • To make it look as if they were mugged, the guys beat each other up with many punches that draw lots of blood.
  • Shotgun: Used by a thief in an attempt to hold up a convenience store (and Trip acts like he has a gun in his pocket, but doesn't). Later, as Trip holds this while making out with the clerk, the gun fires and blasts a hole into the ceiling.
  • Phrases: "Shut the f*ck up," "For f*ck's sake," "I don't give a sh*t," "Kick ass," "Wuss," "Psycho bitch," "Dyke," "Chicks," "Geek," "Dork," "Idiot," "Crapper," "Take a leak," "Freakin'," "Guido," "Pissed off," "Bastards," "Suck my..." "Freaks," "Fag-mo," "Puke" (noun describing someone), "Jerks," "Loser ass," "Fags," "Blows," "Why don't you lick my hairy crack?" "Pissed," "Moron," "Bitch," "Balls" (testicles), "Faggoty," "Pissing me off," "Twerps," "Sucks," "Nuts" (crazy), "Piss," "Moron," "Turds," "Idiot" and "Screwed up."
  • Some kids may want to imitate the smashing of a guitar onto the stage as one of the guys nearly does that and as a KISS member actually later does during a concert.
  • Jam gives the other guys "the finger" after they make fun of him.
  • We briefly see a student shoot a spit-ball at another student in class.
  • Trying to get out of class, Trip tells the teacher he has to go to the bathroom and we then see a wet spot forming on his crotch (but then see that it's rigged, with a small water pump he's holding behind him that's attached to a tube going around to his crotch).
  • The guys lace a priest's pizza with hallucinogenic mushrooms so that they can retrieve Jam.
  • Trip throws a slice of pizza out the window that accidently lands on the windshield of another car.
  • We see that our four guys have painted two belligerent mens' faces with KISS-like makeup.
  • Noticing that Christine appears to be passed out from pot inhalation, Trip says, "Let's lift up her skirt."
  • Referring to something else, Trip comments, "Man, this is better than the first time I got to finger a chick."
  • Lex tries sneaking into the concert.
  • To make it look as if they were mugged, the guys beat each other up with many punches that draw lots of blood.
  • A KISS member spits something flammable across an open flame (for the mouth-based flame thrower effect) during a concert.
  • None.
  • A mild amount of comically suspenseful music occurs during the film.
  • None that we heard, but plenty of songs play on the soundtrack (and there's always the possibility that we missed something while noting other content).
  • At least 86 "f' words (3 used with "mother," 1 used sexually), 36 "s" words, 7 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck" as well as "willy, "wee-wee" and "peter"), 1 slang term for breasts ("t*ts"), 26 asses (9 used with "hole"), 10 hells, 2 craps, 2 S.O.B.s, 1 damn and 8 uses of "God," 3 of "Oh God," 2 each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God" and 1 use of "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • The camera zooms into the breasts of an old 1970s Farrah Fawcett poster and does the same to the picture of the woman seen swimming on the "Jaws" book cover/poster. Later, it focuses on the butts of three real girls as they walk along.
  • Hawk, acting like he's a rock star on stage, announces "We have to go back to our hotel rooms and f*ck some groupies."
  • We briefly see some Playboy magazines on the floor of one of the guy's basements, but don't see anything but the cover.
  • Jams' mom tells him, "Your jeans are so tight, I can see your penis" (but we don't).
  • As the guys debate whether to pick up Christine off the highway (they don't know her yet), Jam argues that horror films start that way, but Trip then adds that they make porno films that start way as well.
  • One of the guys asks Christine, "Do you like, suck on d*cks or what?" and then a comment is made that "she's obviously not going to put out." One of them then tells her that "disco blows dogs for quarters."
  • Telling him how to earn some money to buy a ticket at a nearby strip contest, a scalper tells Hawk, "Take off your pants -- shake your willy."
  • A scalper tells Hawk that "big-breasted" women will be at the concert.
  • We see a male dancer in a club wearing an American-Indian type outfit that only covers his crotch area. As Hawk walks through this club, an older woman grabs his butt. Another older woman who's bought him a drink shows a lot of upper thigh as she seductively gazes at him.
  • We see some porno magazine covers in a convenience store (quite obvious in the camera's view), including Hustler magazine that shows a closeup of a woman's spread fingers at her crotch (although we don't see her genitals as something blocks that part of the picture).
  • Back in the club with Hawk, we see most of a male dancer's bare butt (as he wears a thong bottom). An emcee then makes some double entendre remarks about Hawk being "hung like a Norse" and that since his name is that of a bird "It's just a swallow" as he points to his crotch.
  • Hawk then does his impromptu strip dance where he takes off his shirt and runs it back and forth along his clothed crotch (while we see a woman suggestively licking her tongue at him). He then takes off his pants down to his boxers that say "KISS This" on the back and have a picture of Gene Simmons and his long tongue on the front of them.
  • As a woman walks by the camera wearing an extremely high cut and tight outfit, we see the bottom part of her bare butt in it.
  • We see a lot of a woman's cleavage.
  • As Jam sits in a confessional, the priest asks if he's sure he doesn't want to confess about carnal knowledge with the neighborhood girl or finding porno magazines under his dad's bed. When Jam says that he doesn't, the priest suggests that he find something "juicer" to talk about.
  • To that end, Jam then makes out with Beth in that confessional, and we see them after they've had sex (he's shirtless, she in her bra). Then as they get dressed and try to sneak out of the confessional, Jam starts telling the priest about a bridesmaid he was with and as they leave the church, we hear the priest asking what that woman was wearing, "...crotch-less panties? A leopard skin bra? Fishnet leotard?" etc...
  • An older woman tells Hawk that she's in the position to spend some money on him if he's got the time to get in the position with her.
  • We see several bare-breasted women in a hot tub, along with other women in skimpy/cleavage revealing bikinis.
  • When confronted by some menacing-looking dogs, Lex says, "God, if you get me out of this, I swear I'll never pull my pork again."
  • Trip briefly, but passionately makes out with a convenience store clerk.
  • We see Hawk and the older woman who came on to him in her car. As she touches the bulge at his crotch, he tries to stop her but evidently climaxes. As such, he says "Now you've seen me and my d*ck throw up." Nonetheless, they passionately kiss and her car seat reclines all the way back. Evidently, they later have sex as she tells him that she's not giving him money for the sex.
  • As some lecherous men come on to Christine whom they have tied up, she states that when she gets angry, she can bite down very hard (implying what she thinks they want her to do with them orally). Nonetheless, one of the men claims that they can strip her in fifteen seconds. Trying to divert their attention, Christine mentions her friend who she says has enormous "t*ts" and that they'll "feel like babies sucking on them." One of the guys then says that the dance he'll do with her is the "horizontal hustle."
  • Jam exclaims in public that he lost his virginity in a confessional booth.
  • We briefly see a bare-breasted woman in the crowd at the concert.
  • Both Jam's mother and Hawk smoke more than five times, while Trip smokes a few and other characters also smoke.
  • Jam and his mother don't get along and he finally stands up to her authoritative ways over him.
  • What KISS stands for, if anything (Mrs. Bruce says it's "Knights in Satan's Service").
  • The behavior of the four guys (cussing, smoking pot, overall defiant attitude, etc...).
  • What life was like in the 70s.
  • We briefly see the newspaper headline for the Jim Jones mass suicide of the late 1970s in Guyana.
  • While trying to unplug a stereo, Mrs. Bruce knocks several objects to the floor that break.
  • There's some slapstick material as a phone whips across the room and hits Jam in the face and moments later he's similarly hit by a stretched exercise cord. His mom yanks him around and accidently smacks him into the side of a car. Later he bumps heads with a girl and she then accidently throws her pencil that hits him in the eye.
  • Jam's mother burns their KISS tickets.
  • As the four guys try to hide in a bathroom stall, the toilet they're standing on breaks, causing them to fall into the stall walls, eventually knocking all of the stalls to the bathroom floor.
  • The guys push a cart holding what's presumably a film projector (or similar AV equipment) into a guard who's chasing him, causing the guard and the cart to tumble down a set of stairs. The school guard then grabs the AV case and smashes it to the floor.
  • A car smashes into the side of the car the guys are driving after an altercation between Hawk and his buddies and a carload of disco fans. That other car finally cuts them off, one of the guys then grabs Hawk and smears his head on their windshield and then bangs his head against it. They then throw the guys' KISS eight-track tape out onto the highway where it's run over and destroyed. Hawk then kicks one of the guys in the crotch and then knees him in the face. He and his three buddies then surround and beat the other guy (with their KISS belt buckles, chains, etc...) although the actual beating takes place below the camera's view. They then place a rock on the accelerator of the other men's car and send it careening into a ditch.
  • Hawk briefly attacks Trip in an elevator after learning they didn't win tickets to the concert because of Trip.
  • Trip comments that they could beat up some little kids to get their tickets.
  • A little kid's muscle bound brother hits Trip for earlier threatening the boy.
  • A thief aims his shotgun at people, including Trip, while trying to rob a convenience store.
  • Lex accidently causes some duct work to crash down onto a table and the champagne fountain on it.
  • Some guards throw Lex out of the concert hall and into a pile of trash.
  • Trip and a thug wrestle over the criminal's shotgun and a stretchy doll toy, the latter of which hits the thug in the face, knocking him out. Later, as Trip holds the shotgun while making out with the clerk, the gun goes off and blasts a hole into the ceiling.
  • The musclebound brother punches Trip again.
  • To make it look as if they were mugged, the guys pummel each other up with many punches that draw lots of blood.
  • One of the KISS members smashes his guitar on the stage.

  • Reviewed August 9, 1999 / Posted August 13, 1999

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [1917] [Bombshell] [Cats] [Little Women] [Spies In Disguise] [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker] [Uncut Gems]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2020 Screen It, Inc.