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Film / Detroit Rock City

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Detroit Rock City is a 1999 teen comedy film staring Edward Furlong, Guiseppe Andrews, James De Bello, and Sam Huntington. Set in January of 1978, the film follows the journey of four high school students who are trying to gain entry to a sold-out KISS concert after their tickets are destroyed by an over-zealous parent. The film was a box office flop and was met with mixed reviews from critics, but among KISS fans (as well as among people who dislike KISS/rock music in general, surprisingly) it has become a Cult Classic.

This Movie Contains Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Jam's mom never turns down the opportunity to belittle him and tell him how horrible of a son he is simply because he listens to "Satanic" KISS records.
    Jam's Mom: "God forbid you have a son like you one day Jeremiah - a boy who lies through his teeth, buys demonic records, and smokes the dope."
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Inverted and referenced; Jam is easily the sweetest of the four, and at one point, he's ridiculed by his other bandmates for being a drummer without "some fucking balls".
  • Bad to the Bone: Given the rock-heavy soundtrack, some songs are obviously used to underscore badass moments. Hawk's response to disco bullies earns "Iron Man", Lex rescuing Christine has "Whole Lotta Rosie", Jam gets his drumsticks back with "Running with the Devil"...
  • Big Brother Instinct: It's hard to fault Chongo for roughing up Trip, considering that Trip did attempt to rob Chongo's little brother.
  • Berserk Button: When Kenny and Bobby destroy Hawk's Love Gun 8-track, it prompts Hawk to retaliate with violence. His friends quickly follow suit, resulting in Kenny and Bobby tied to a guardrail with KISS inspired "fag makeup" on their faces, and their car driven into a ditch.
    • Hawk goes absolutely ballistic when Trip costs them a set of replacement tickets, and literally has to be pulled off of him.
  • Big "NO!": Elvis belts out one of these when the boys successfully leave school property.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While the boys did succeed in their goal of making it to the KISS concert - as well as showing some Character Development along the way - Jam mentions that he'll be spending the next two years of his life at a religious boarding school (that openly admitted that they have no problem punishing him for the slightest infraction, but that they'll never expel him even for the largest) where he'll be cut off from his friends and likely miserable... or perhaps not, given that he did, finally and publicly, stand up to his mom.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Trip's stolen wallet.
  • Christianity is Catholic: All three of the film's Christian characters (Jam's mom, the headmaster at the boarding school, and the priest in the confessional) are Catholic.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: The boys rig up a radio to play music in class to cheer them up after their tickets are destroyed. The very first thing they run into is a broadcast advertising a giveaway for four tickets and four backstage passes to the KISS show.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After Trip calls Lex's mom a "dyke":
    Lex: "Just because she's a female gynecologist, that doesn't mean she's a lesbian. And even if she was, at least my mom didn't give birth to me while she was on LSD."
    Trip: "'Shrooms!"
  • Cool Car: Averted. The car that the boys "borrow" from Lex's mom to get to the concert is a brown Volvo sedan.
    • A brown Volvo sedan with "OB GYN" custom license plates, at that.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In Jam's subplot, he runs into both his mother and Beth while wandering the streets of Detroit.
    • The boys' plot to beat the hell out of each other and say they were mugged for their KISS tickets in a last ditch effort to get inside is about to fail, when Trip notices Chongo, his little brother, and their group of friends - who actually did mug him - in the audience. He points them out and identifies the contents of his wallet to the security guard, backing up their claim, and the boys get inside the show without a hitch.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Adam Rifkin appears in the poster outside the strip club.
  • The Ditz: Trip.
  • Face Your Fears: Every one of the boys has to overcome his own personal demons over the course of this film.
    • Lex has to face his fear of dogs.
    • Hawk has to overcome his stage fright.
    • Jam has to stand up to his mother.
    • Trip actually has to use his brain to solve a dilemma.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Jam is happily passing the time in study hall filling his notebook with variations on the KISS logo and touching up the "Mystery" logo on his drumstick. Right next to him, Beth, his gorgeous classmate, has filled her notebook with hearts containing "Beth + Jeremiah," "I Love Jeremiah" and the like... and he never notices.
  • Fanservice Extra: Averted. The strip-club patron who takes an interest in Hawk is played by Shannon Tweed, a former Playboy Playmate who made a career out of taking her clothes off in B-movies that typically aired on late-night Cinemax or Showtime. In this movie, however, she keeps her clothes on.
    • Perhaps understandably, since she was by this point the mother of Nick and Sophie Simmons. Eventually she and Gene tied the knot, too.
    • Played straight with some topless girls seen backstage at Cobo Hall.
  • Garage Band: Mystery, the band that the boys are in. Despite this, they haven't officially played a show, due to Hawk's stage fright leading him to "drop like a dead deer" before their first show at a party.
  • Genius Ditz: In an uncharacteristic moment of quick thinking, Trip tricks the security at the KISS concert into believing that Chongo and his crew beat he and his friends up and stole their tickets. This ultimately enables the boys to gain entry to the concert.
  • In-Joke/It Will Never Catch On:
    • At one point in the film, Christine comments that "disco is so huge right now it wouldn't surprise me if KISS did a disco song," prompting dismissive laughs from the guys. One year after the one the film takes place in, KISS would release the disco song "I Was Made For Lovin' You", much to the dismay of many of their fans.
    • Another in-joke regards how the boys parallel KISS: the singer gets a supermodel; the drummer gets Beth (a song which Peter Criss did write and sing); the guitarist is a stoner and gets a spacey girl (Ace Frehley loved to drink and is the Space Ace); and the bassist gets Christine (Gene Simmons wrote "Christine Sixteen").
  • Ironic Echo: "Tisk, tisk, tisk. I was really hoping things would work out for you. You got spunk." First spoken by Chongo's little brother to Trip after Trip failed to come up with the $200 needed to buy his way out of an ass-kicking, and later spoken by Trip after he successfully convinced the guards that Chongo and his crew beat them up (see Laser-Guided Karma below) for their KISS tickets.
  • Jerk Jock: Chongo - but then again his aggression is understandable since Trip tried to rob his little brother.
  • Joisey: Although the film is set in Michigan, all of the disco fans speak with New Jersey accents for some reason.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Jam's mom, big time.
  • Large-Ham Announcer: The MC in the strip club, played by adult film star Ron Jeremy.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Shortly after Chongo beat up Trip, Trip claimed that Chongo and his crew beat up the main four boys and stole their tickets.
  • Liquid Courage: In order to overcome his stage fright before his performance at the strip club, Hawk drinks a large amount of alcohol first. This ends up backfiring when he vomits the entire contents of his stomach into an empty beer pitcher in front of the entire crowd.
  • Logo Joke: The New Line Cinema logo has an Epic Riff variation of the theme.
  • The Movie: The working title for Detroit Rock City was The KISS Movie.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Jam loses his virginity in a church confessional booth.
  • Mouth Cam: The camera appears inside Gene Simmons' mouth as he's doing the tongue-wriggling during the KISS concert.
  • Mrs. Robinson: The aforementioned Ms. Tweed plays a cougar who offers money to Hawk for sex. He refuses the money up front, they have sex anyway, and she STILL gives him the money.
  • My Beloved Smother: Jam's chain-smoking, bible-thumping mom who burns the gang's KISS tickets. She doesn't even let him get dressed in private after picking her son up from Lex's house the night after she found his "demonic KISS record".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When the gang seems to have miraculously obtained a second set of tickets to the sold-out concert, Trip hung up before the DJ asked for his contact information to ensure the gang would actually get the passes they had won on the radio.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If Chongo and his little brother hadn't decided to Pay Evil unto Evil by actually robbing Trip of his wallet — with KISS Army ID — the boys would've never made the show.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Lex is definitely the fourth man of the lineup.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The boys have this reaction when Jam's mom burns the tickets in front of them.
    • Jam has this reaction when he's wandering the streets of Detroit in search of KISS tickets, and realizes that his mom's "church meeting" that she was going to be at for the entire night is the Mothers Against The Music Of KISS rally outside of the show.
    Jam: "...Shit."
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: Paul Stanley does this in the concert.
  • The '70s: And how. The opening title sequence is a catalog of every significant media trend of the decade, interlaced with KISS footage.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: After losing his virginity to Beth, Jam finally works up the courage to stand up to his mother, and acts noticeably more self-confident and less meek for the remainder of the film.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: The backstage area of the KISS concert is portrayed as a hive of hedonism and debauchery, complete with a jacuzzi full of beautiful topless women.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The feud between disco fans and rock fans depicted in this film was a real thing. By the late 1970s, anti-disco sentiment was growing across the United States, with many people wearing t-shirts bearing slogans such as "Disco Sucks" and "Death Before Disco". In 1979, the public backlash against disco resulted in Disco Demolition Night, a massive anti-disco demonstration that made national news and is credited with playing a major role in disco's fall from popularity.
    • All of the KISS merchandise shown in the film is genuine, coming from a private collection, and hand picked to ensure Anachronism Stew was averted. One of the DVD extras has an anecdote where someone walked onto the set, spotted an almost hidden piece of merch in the background, and tosses it away, saying that it wasn't time-accurate.
  • Speed Sex: Between Hawk and the "cougar". The second time goes better.
  • Stage Names: The main four boys are referred to by these as their standard names throughout the movie. The only character whose name is revealed is Jam (real name Jeremiah Bruce). Trip, Lex, and Hawk's real names are never identified.
  • The Stoner: All of them to different degrees, but especially Trip. He's almost literally a walking stoner stereotype (he has long hair, slurred speech peppered with "dude" and "man", a beanie, a jacket with a pot leaf on the back...), and he's even referred to as a burnout by multiple characters.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jam's speech delivered to his mother (which overlaps with a Shut Up, Hannibal! moment) definitely counts:
    Jam: "Hey, what's up mom? I'm gonna ask you this nicely first. Can I have my drumsticks back?"
    Mrs. Bruce: "Your drumsticks are the least of your worries young man! You ran out on God! My son just ran out on God! You are in a world of-"
    Jam: "Trouble?" *laughs* "I've been in trouble for the past twelve hours! Hello?! You know I'm going to be in St. Bernard's Boarding School for the next two years of my life, remember?"
    Mrs. Bruce: "Yes!"
    Jam: "I am going to be out of your hair until I am a legal adult!"
    Mrs. Bruce: "Yes!"
    Jam: "Then all you have to do is go to church, light a candle, and pray to some stupid little statue for me and all is forgiven and forgotten, right mom? Then you can spend your days in a guilt free pursuit of more constructive activities like telling everybody else how screwed up their lives are! And then you no longer need the patience and understanding required to talk to your own son on some normal plane! And then that way you don't have to think about how tough it was for you when you were growing up, and its probably a good thing too, 'cause if you did, you'd realize what a lousy, goddamn, shitty-ass parent you are!"
    Mrs. Bruce: *stunned* "Jeremiah... what has gotten into you?"
    Jam: *picks up a bullhorn and yells into it* "I just lost my virginity in a confessional booth! Lord! Have! Mercy! Now, for the last time... Mom...give me back my fucking drumsticks! *beat* ...please."
  • Television Geography: The guys drive from Ohio to Detroit, and enter the city through a bridge. The only bridges into Detroit come from Canada.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: A recurring motif...
    • On the drive to the show, the band encounters Kenny and Bobby, a pair of cocky, aggressively macho disco fans.
    • Backstage, the bouncers are so eager to eject Lex that they lay hands on an actual roadie by mistake:
    Roadie: Keep your paws to yourself, ya dumb fuckin' apes.
    • Lex goes from the frying pan into the fire with the "Beefy Jerks" (script description) in the chop shop.
    • Finally and ultimately, Chongo and his buddies.
  • That Nostalgia Show: For The '70s (as numerous entires imply) and, specifically, for the height of KISS-mania.
  • Theme Naming: The female characters Beth and Christine both share their names with KISS songs.
  • Titled After the Song: Down to both revolving around a concert in Detroit and featuring "Detroit Rock City" in the ending.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Two car thieves accidentally kidnap Christine because she happened to be asleep on the backseat of the stolen Volvo. When the car thieves realize she's there, they tie her up and imply that they're going to rape her and then kill her. This is surprisingly dark considering that the movie is a teen comedy.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In an attempt to overcome his stage fright, Hawk drinks a large amount of alcohol before performing his strip tease. This results in him throwing up onstage and filling up an entire pitcher.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Lex is terrified of dogs, something that he has to overcome to save Christine.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Hawk does a striptease to KISS's "Strutter".