Written by: James Green
I am not even sure where to begin with this one.
Detention is either terrible or genius, perhaps even terrible genius. I will have to watch it again to actually decide. The film was directed by Joseph Kahn, the man who brought us Torque and some very popular music videos. If you have not seen Torque, give it a whirl. The film snob in me wanted to hate it, and yet, I couldn’t. But, this is not about Torque. It is about Detention, a movie about time travel, a pubescent serial killer, aliens, and much more.
The energy here reminds me of a more intelligent Neveldine-Taylor film. From start to finish Detention does not stop. From the speedy/witty dialog to the references of all facets of popular culture, it is high energy, and very hard to catch everything that is said. The sad thing is though, as I watched, all I could do is think of other films. Heathers came to mind. Scott Pilgrim came to mind, even John Hughes. It constantly reminded me of things I have already seen, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Most films these days do that to me.
The whole mess takes place in a town called Grizzly Lake. The kids at the high school in Grizzly Lake are weird in familiar ways, because, you know, everyone’s a little bit weird no matter how popular or unpopular they might be (There’s as close to a central theme as there is, repeated ad nauseam). Our heroine is Riley (Shanley Caswell), a complete loner and klutz whose only solace is that she is not the biggest disaster to ever walk the halls of her school (She keeps a picture of another girl fellating the school’s stuffed bear mascot on her wall as a reminder of that fact). She has a crush on the cool kid in school Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson), who rides down the halls on a skateboard and wears neon clothes. The rest are just archetypes—a fellow loser who likes Riley, a nerdy kid named after a computer manufacturer, and a guy in a hooded sweatshirt who’s been in detention for almost two decades.
Then we have the really strange characters, like Billy (Parker Bagley), the human fly and jock who wants to beat up Clapton over a girl, and Ione (Spencer Locke), the girl who used to date Billy but now fancies Clapton. The change in personality (which we never see, mind you) is explained late in the movie; it involves swapping minds and time travel (That someone’s cell phone accompanies their mind into the past is actually the least egregious detail here).
This might sound easy to follow, but keep in mind that Kahn and Palermo’s script is littered with pop culture references, self-referential in-jokes, non sequiturs, and the rare piece of dialogue that actually refers to other characters or subplots of the movie in the most minimal terms. Basically, the dialogue amounts to a string of 10-cent words punctuated by the mention of an actor who was popular during the 1980s followed by a collection of thesaurus fodder that ends with a reference to a band that was semi-popular in the 1990s. As the actors recite these gratuitous bits of trivia with rat-a-tat speed, Kahn oftentimes intercuts two or three different conversations, and his camera moves in between the random cuts with superfluous hyperactivity.
Now, with all of that being said, was it a bad movie? Yes. But in the way that Dead Alive (my favorite horror film) is a bad movie. You cannot help but be entertained. Rent it. Watch it for what it is. And, enjoy the insanity that is Detention.
Now, since this is a review of a DVD, I will talk about the extras. And yes, I said DVD. Sadly WalMart did not have this gem on blueray. However, from what I read, the special features are the same on both. The only available extra is commentary, but, not just vocal commentary. You can watch the entire film in a sort of P.I.P format, the movie taking up most of the screen and interviews with the director and cast taking up the rest. I actually found this kind of entertaining and it helped me understand what they were trying to do a little better. I will admit that I would have enjoyed some outtakes however. Oh well.