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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/21/99

Detroit Rock City
New Line Platinum Series - 1999 (1999) - New Line

review by Todd Doogan of the The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Detriot Rock City Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/D

Specs and Features

95 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (additional layer for special edition material), Snapper case packaging, three audio commentary tracks (one with director Adam Rifkin, one with the cast and crew, and a track featuring all four original members of KISS), videos for Strutter by The Donnas and The Boys Are Back in Town by Everclear, theatrical trailer, cast and crew filmographies, two featurettes (Look Into the Sun and Miscellaneous Shit: Behind-the-Scenes on Detroit Rock City), SongXpress tutorial (learn to play Rock n Roll All Nite on guitar), 5 deleted scenes plus a gag reel, isolated multiple angle material (the Detroit Rock City performance by KISS, Mystery's basement performance and the Confessional scene), DVD-ROM features ("script-to-screen" screenplay access, e-mailable trading cards, cast & crew bios, the film's original web site, and weblinks), two separate film-themed menu options (one animated with film strip-style "audio interactive" navigation, and traditional text-format menus), scene access (23 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

Nothing rocks harder than KISS. Nothing. When I was a kid, I had the MEGO dolls, I had the Love Gun puzzle, and best of all, my mother had one of my birthday cakes decorated like the Rock and Roll Over album. Heady times for a kid. KISS was a major part of my life. I can even remember the day we moved into the house I grew up in, because it was the night KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park was first broadcast on NBC. I almost missed it, because the TV was the last thing to come off the truck -- imagine how impatient I must have been, tapping my foot while my father tried to get the TV hooked up properly. Fortunately, he finished up just in time, and I was in heaven.

In Detroit Rock City, we see a vision where kids like me rule the world. Well, okay -- not really the world. But they do worship the gods of rock, the baddest mothers to ever strut on stage -- KISS! The movie features four teens who do everything they can to get into a KISS concert, after one of their mothers burns their tickets. After failing to win replacement tickets from a radio station, they have to figure out how to get the tickets individually, only to find that they have a better chance as a team. It's a tale about responsibility, teamwork and faith... all with heaping spoonfuls of sex, drugs and rock and roll thrown in for good measure.

KISS fan though I am, I'm not a big fan of this movie. I think it's uneven, unrealistic and a shade on the stupid side... even for a film that should be on the stupid side. It's not for everyone, but I'm sure there's a group of fans out there who WILL enjoy this film, so I'm not going to slam it. It does have a few good moments, and most of them involve the truly gifted comedienne Lin Shaye (also seen in Kingpin, There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber). Her scenes are definitely the best part of the film, and she gets the point across -- she's the mother from hell who also happens to love her son a whole heck of a lot. Maybe too much, but that's what moms are for.

As a disc Detroit Rock City is pretty... well, it's hard to describe. Usually, New Line is pretty good about their special edition DVDs. The audio and video quality here is absolutely first-rate, and there are a lot of unique features on this DVD. But I found most of them to be pretty unspectacular -- they failed almost completely to grab me, so much so that this is really embarrassing. Let's start from the beginning.

When you enter the disc's menu screen, you see a high school filmstrip-style sequence explaining the disc, and how to navigate the menu options that will eventually greet you. You can quickly get out of this by pressing "down" on your remote's arrow keys, which will take you to the disc's traditional text menus. I suggest you use them, because the animated menus are over-long, boring and make it extremely hard to navigate the disc's content quickly. Here's why - the animated menus give you the option to go "up", "left", "right" or "down" to access certain areas of the disc... but because there is no text to guide you, you have to listen to (and remember) a voice that tells you where whatever it is you're looking for can be found. Selecting a direction then takes you into a new set of options, again without text to guide you. For example, you're told to press "left" to hear the commentaries, and then you're told to go "up" for KISS, "left" for the cast and crew, or "right" for director Adam Rifkin. Or was that "down" for KISS, "left" for Rifkin and "up" for the cast? Either way, it just doesn't work. Why studios think DVDs should work like some new fangled video game is beyond me. The key here SHOULD be to make it easy to access high-quality content quickly, and to present it in an interesting way that enhances the film experience -- not just to add lots of ground-breaking interactivity for the sake of breaking ground with DVD interactivity! We buy DVDs for the movie and the extras -- not the menus. So just show the fricking movie, and let us have some extras! This is worse than Warner, with their DVD content listed like the parts of game of Candyland. How am I supposed to know that "The Emerald City" is where all of the extras are hidden on theWizard of Oz? Why should I have to have to know that?

Anyway, back to Detroit Rock City -- if you exit out of all the menu madness, you'll find an "old fashioned" menu screen that allows you to actually read where you want to go to get the extras. But once you get there, the extras are less than stellar. Most of this stuff is quite frankly s**t. The cast and crew commentary is almost unlistenable. It's 10 or so cast and crew members talking at the same time, with one of them on a cell phone while eating dinner on a patio in the Village. And all the while, the sound of the film is coming through in the background (a bad move that haunts all of the tracks). The director's track with Adam Rifkin is informative, but Adam seems to be talking to people from another planet, who don't understand the ideas behind teen rebellion and KISS. Earth to Rifkin -- if the disc is in my player, I'm a fan. We get it, and don't really need it explained to us. The coolest commentary is a track with the members of KISS, talking about their legacy and history (which is about the only track that should have been on this disc). But a bit more forethought would have been nice. Gene Simmons is a knowledgeable guy (and the coolest band member of all time). He actually knew to be IN the studio for this commentary recording. The other three members of KISS are recorded on the phone, being interview by associate producer Tim Sullivan, who asks all the same questions of everyone. So by the time I heard Ace, I knew that his first question was going to be about KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.

As if that weren't enough of a waste of time, submitted for your approval is the behind-the-scenes material. First up: a lame-ass, stupid, and I-want-the-7-and-a-half-minutes-of-my-life-back piece of dreck, entitled "Look Into the Sun". James DeBello walks around the sets with a digital camcorder, muttering to himself like a crack whore tapped out on confectioner's sugar. Wow. The "official" behind-the-scenes featurette is only about a few steps better, with interviews and helpful hints about nothing at all from the cast and crew. I seriously think New Line just didn't care about being serious with this disc. I'm not sure whose idea all this was, but it's really a joke and the punchline is that some people out there like this film enough to actually buy this horrible thing. The standard saving graces (as the extras go) are a theatrical trailer, miscellaneous videos, a few deleted scenes, filmographies, DVD-ROM stuff (with the script-to-screen feature) and the multiple angle footage. The multiple angle scenes aren't in the film -- they're isolated by themselves. You can "direct your own music video" by jumping to alternate camera angles during a KISS performance. You can watch behind-the-scenes stuff via multi-angle while the film's garage band (Mystery) performs. Or you can watch cast audition footage by jumping to another angle during the extended confessional scene. I see the idea here, but it was poorly executed. Actually, I think the best thing on this disc (and the only thing keeping me from burning it) is the SongXpress feature, where you can learn to play Rock n Roll All Night on guitar.

As for the video and audio quality of this disc, it's actually really very good. If you like the movie (and keep away from the "extras") you'll find that the 16x9 transfer really looks sweet. The colors are well represented, and the blacks are deep and true with great detail. Even the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is top notch. This is really great surround sound -- not filled with gimmicks, but which creates a very natural and active soundstage. I don't particularly like the movie, but I really didn't mind seeing it on DVD -- it looks and sounds that good.

If you liked Detroit Rock City, then buy this disc without regrets -- there's probably enough here to make you happy, and at least the film is presented in first-rate quality. If you're not a fan... then stay away. At the very least, do yourself a favor and parent lock all the extras. If I save just one person from the horrors of this DVD, then I feel like I did my job. Buyer beware.

Todd Doogan
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