How does one even attempt to describe the film Detention? It’s as if Grant Morrison had been contracted to write the script for Not Another Teen Movie, which was then directed by the speed-riddled, zombie corpse of Bob Clampett.
Try to imagine The Breakfast Club, She’s All That, Scream and Donnie Darko put into a garbage smasher with hydraulics powered by self-derision and a healthy dose of hallucinogens. Or Dan Harmon going so unbelievably meta that he disappears up his own ass and comes out in Dante’s candy colored third level of Hell.
After a sensory-blasting opening, we settle in with our main character, the self-proclaimed “biggest loser in school.” Perhaps it’s her militant vegetarianism that pisses everyone off. Perhaps it’s her idiot, alcoholic father. Perhaps it’s her sad sack-ness. But regardless, most people just plain don’t like poor, gimpy Riley Jones. On the flip side, we’ve got the biggest reason this film was picked up for distribution following The Hunger Games kicking the Spring box office in the head; Josh Hutcherson’s character. A popular slacker that is beloved by most of the student population, Clapton Davis is pined for by Riley, who is devastated that he is dating her former best friend, Ione. But after murder, aliens, time travel, hipster nostalgia and an awful performance by Dane Cook pretending to be Principal Vernon from Breakfast Club (which drags the film down by half a star alone) get done with the three of them, nothing will be the same.
The plot’s engine is the same kind of bugnuts chicanery that fuels my love of such bizarre films as Hideaki Anno’s adaptation of Cutie Honey or Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. There is nothing quite like it and that’s probably a good thing. The closest film in my estimation is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but while in terms of filmmaking energy they may be in the same sport, Detention is in a completely different ballpark (and with a AAA team.) It certainly isn’t the best self-reflexive meta horror comedy this year. Cabin in the Woods delivers the ultimate nut punch to that particular genre. But even with it’s own glorious finale, Cabin never reaches the same level of “what the hell”-ness.
I have not seen Joseph Kahn’s previous film Torque, which I’ve heard is a good thing. Regardless, Detention is not an experience that will be equal to all. While I found myself with a dazed smile on my face and arched eyebrow as all of this unbridled weirdness unspooled before me, many… perhaps even a large majority of people, may find themselves with the kind of migraine headaches that make your brains liquify and drip out your ear canal and all over your couch. (Guess grandma was right to put plastic on her furniture.)
I almost have trouble saying that Detention is a good film so much as that it’s a good film equivalent of pixie-stix sandwich overkill.
(Three and a half out of five stars)