An apocalyptic fantasy, horror, science fiction, action-thriller, body swapping, time-traveling teen romantic comedy starring Josh Hutcherson, Dane Cook and Shanley Caswell, DETENTION follows the local students of Grizzly Lake as they survive their final year of high school. Bringing even more angst to student life, a slasher killer has chosen their high school as his new home of slaughter. It becomes a race against time to stop the killer, which will in turn save the world - if only they can get out of detention.
Detention is the story of a group of high school kids in a town called Grizzly Lake. Cool kid Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games) has a new girlfriend, the popular cheerleader Ione (Spencer Locke from "Cougar Town"). This relationship not only irks Clapton's best friend, Riley (Snow White: A Deadly Summer's Shanley Caswell) and makes his nerdy pal Sander (Aaron David Johnson from Finding Hope) jealous, but really pisses off Ione's old boyfriend Nolan (Parker Bagley from "Grimm"), who wants to beat up Clapton. All this is going on despite the fact that kids are being stalked by the killer from their favorite horror movie, a bandaged and burned up prom queen named Cinderhella. Principal Verge (Waiting...'s Dane Cook) has just the answer; send them all to detention. While the group is locked in the library together, they start to piece together the puzzle that will lead them to the killer and, ultimately, save their lives.
Detention was directed by music video director Joseph Kahn, and it shows. The film is like a long commercial for MTV with quick camera movement, frantic editing and hip young stars. The best way to describe the style is Scream meets Heathers; it's full of the dark humor and nihilism that accompanies modern high school movies, but lacks a plot. The film gets so wrapped up in subplots that there appears not to be a main story, but by the time the audience notices that nothing is happening, it's too late; an hour and a half of their life is gone.
Trying to keep up with Detention is a real chore. The film is an E-ticket ride of non-sequiturs and pop culture references that come so fast, it's like eavesdropping on a packed Comic-Con party. Kahn even throws in a time travel subplot so that the references can transcend the generations; at one point the viewer is treated to a trip back through the different years of kids in detention hall, the director showing a time capsule of each era's fashion, music and movies. It's amusing, and is one of the funnier moments in the film, but doesn't help the lack of coherent plot.
One thing that can be said for Joseph Kahn is that he is good at the type of direction that he does. Detention is slick, smooth and well made - like a music video. The visuals are extremely reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, with its hip titling, graphic overlays and special effects. Unfortunately for Detention, all the technology in the world can't save it; it was dead in the water from the beginning because of the poor script.
Written by Kahn and Mark Palermo, the script for Detention is a mess; it's a confusing, convoluted quagmire of wannabe teen angst and troubles. The plot has a ton of weird, pointless elements that don't need to be included and only serve to further muddy the waters of the already murky story. For instance, at one point it is discovered that Nolan, the bully that wants to beat up Clapton, has fly blood (yes, you read that right). He spends the rest of the film being sick and throwing up acid that dissolves anything it touches. It's an attempted nod to David Cronenberg's The Fly, but it neither pays respect to the older film nor makes fun of it in a Scary Movie type of mockery; it just kinda happens, and makes no sense within the rest of the film. Another example is a kid named Elliot Fink (Fame's Walter Perez) who has been in detention for nineteen years; he just randomly appears, and although the character is one of the more likable ones, he serves no purpose other than to attempt to make the film kitschy and cool. There are plenty of fast-paced one-liners and clever dialogue, but that only goes so far -- there is no meat to the story. Brainless fodder may work in an MTV series, but as a feature film, Detention fails.
April 13, 2012