Detention – Review


A high school movie for Generation ADHD

The same weekend that The Cabin in the Woods saw its release after being on the shelf due to MGM financial issues another already-to-be-destined cult film also saw release. Detention from Joseph Kahn opened in twelve metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada, and it is unlike any movie you’re likely to see this year. Sure, some writers may over embellish certain releases to get a press blurb out of it, but most of that is their fanboyism (is that a word?) showing through thus giving the review or article an overriding sense that the writer will find no fault with the film.

After the first thirty minutes I was all about to write off this comedy. Here I saw what would happen if a pop culture atomic bomb detonated in a small-town community. The fallout was a melding of genre types. Detention is in its own way Girl Talk: The Movie. Questions arose. Is this a riff of Scream in the same way Scream was a send-up of the slashers that came before it? Is it a time-traveling comedy where the end of the world hinges on disrupting an event in the past? Or is it merely a ‘90s reference-heavy satire of teenage life where minds have been corrupted by technological advances that prove an Apple© a day isn’t always best? Detention is all of those rhetorical questions with a villain named Cinderhella – who would probably be Jigsaw’s soul mate if ever there was a Romancing the Saw movie – Dane Cook as a principal and Hunger Games‘ Josh Hutcherson evoking Ferris Bueller with his character Clapton Davis.

Hutcherson alone is probably why this film is even getting a theatrical release rather than going straight to video. The unprecedented success of Games allows distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films to piggyback on its success in hopes that those who loved seeing Hutcherson as Peeta might see him in this. As one of the executive producers on the film, Hutcherson knew what he was getting himself into with Detention. This is a comedy that plays by its own set of rules, preferring to color outside the lines than be boxed into a single genre. Its rapid-fire references to popular ‘90s music and TV characters (seriously, did I just see a Bronson Pinchot reference – don’t be ridiculous!) and whiplash transitions warrant repeated viewings for sure. The fact that Joseph Kahn would go to such lengths as to open the feature by having his directorial debut, Torque, be a throwaway joke (which I didn’t know until I looked up his profile online – thanks IMDB!), shows you that nothing is off limits.

The film proceedings open with the popular girl (read: bitch – and not the Beautiful Intelligent Talented Creative Honest type) being murdered in her bedroom. The rumor is that the psycho that did it is lurking the halls of Grizzly Lake High School. However, the revelation that she’s dead doesn’t register until a few scenes later when the announcement intervenes an after-school beatdown involving a jock and Clapton, who believes in the “Power of Swayze” and Road House when it comes to gearing up for the fight. Most of the student body could care less that one of their classmates is dead. Had the murder been posted on YouTube or they read about in Twitter, then maybe they’d be anti-Rhett Butler and give a damn. For the suicidal Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) she finds reason to live when she becomes the killer’s next target. At the same time she tries evading an ax to the face Riley makes googly eyes at the sight of skateboard-riding, Back to the Future Part II-inspired sunglass-sporting, all-around cool guy Clapton Davis. The guy is so cool that the Frog brothers of The Lost Boys wouldn’t consider him a fashion victim, even if it looks like his closet threw up and created mixed styles of ‘80s and ‘90s garb.

Standing in Riley’s way is Ione (Spencer Locke), the head cheerleader who Clapton believes to have an “old soul.” That would explain her obsession with the ‘90s. As Riley fawns for Clapton, Sander Sanderson fawns for Riley. He’s the “Duckie” of this tale where the teenagers are pretty in all sorts of colors, not just pink. As the pressure mounts to finger the killer, these four plus a few other characters find themselves in detention on the day of prom. It is in this library setting where a brain, an athlete, a basket ca…never mind that’s some other movie. Detention is more than convenient definitions and labels. It’s about righting the wrongs of a past event to save the world. I would be remised if I didn’t say “this is heavy.”

You may have heard the expression “everything but the kitchen sink” used to describe something so off the wall. Well, Detention is that times ten. Outside of everything discussed thus far, there are UFO sightings, a taxidermic grizzly bear that doubles as a time-traveling vessel (DeLorean = cooler), a character who would have been a perfect nemesis for Spider-Man, and as many pop culture references it can fit into its slim 90-minute run time.

If my rambling hasn’t already clued you in, there’s a lot going on in Detention. It’s definitely a satirical look at high school angst that will either be loved or loathed with little in between. A third of the film had to go by until I finally got it, but when I did I was overcome by a wave of ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia. Yes, director Joseph Kahn only scratches the surface of the characters and their plight – what you were expecting Dawson’s Creek? – and that’s fine by me. When it comes to high school movies, everything seems to be a retread of (insert John Hughes movie here). Detention isn’t any different, but its youthful, colorful, boisterous exuberance is molded perfectly for those whose ADHD only allows them to contextualize things in 140 characters or less. So see it for what it is: madcap lunacy destined for cult status.

Director: Joseph Kahn
Notable Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke, Aaron David Johnson, Dane Cook, Jan Anderson, Parker Bagley
Writer(s): Joseph Kahn and Mark Palermo

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