We had high hopes for Joseph Kahn's high school horror movie Detention. And while we really loved each individual scene on its own, the plot as a whole was lost amongst the din of caterwauling teens shrieking about the 90s.
If there was an meth orgy and every single Youtube video, music video, high school flick, slasher movie, and the cast of Dawson's Creek were piled on top of each other in a great pop-culture orgy, Detention would be the resulting love child. Everything you've ever loved, or recently been entertained by on the internet, is in this movie.
Weird scifi Cronenberg-esque character origin tales? Detention's got 'em. Breakfast Club references? Yep. Text jokes? Check. 90s garb, time travel, misunderstood nerds, terrorists attacks, jilted time travelers, Freaky Friday rip-offs, word bubbles, a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie storytelling, Star Trek jokes, servicey Ferris Bueller style intros, self referential hipsters, skateboard dates, cheerleaders? It's all in there. Just say the first thing that springs to your mind. "A time traveling bear who was abducted by aliens?" Yep, that's in there too.
The story is about a teenage love triangle, sort of. Homely school mascot Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) is in love with "cool kid" Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson). This seemingly unrequited love is put even further to the test when Riley's best friend and head cheerleader Ione (Spencer Locke) starts dating Clapton. And then the plot gets complicated, and every bit as oversaturated as all of the previous listed off references.
In fact you could say that that plot doesn't really matter in Detention — each scene seems like an excuse to get to the next over-the-top innovative sequence that the veteran music video director has dreamed up.
So, does it work? Yes and no. To be fair, each little moment was astoundingly clever and highly entertaining. On its own. But after about 15 minutes of the head cheerleader making Bronson Pinchot references (complete with strange, and inaccurate, text bubbles explaining what Perfect Strangers is) we'd had enough. We wanted to rewind the whole screening and start over (especially since most of the text-on-screen jokes whizzed by entirely too fast for us to read). But at the same time, we wanted to watch it again. As a movie, it's a jumbled mess, but every three-minute skit in Detention is quite brilliant.
Who doesn't want to watch a short film about the school bully's secret struggle, growing up with alien-infused fly blood? Even though you never really get to know any of these characters, they're still entertaining, and they explode with short bursts of hilarity. When you can catch about five minutes of the dialog, it's spot on. We nearly lost it when the Queen Bitch hissed at her brother that he was an ecstasy baby! What happened next? No idea, because we laughed for 3 seconds — and in that span of time 7,000 other things happened.
Plus the movie itself is slick. Kahn has a great eye and knows how to pull together 3 sexy minutes of film, thanks to his years of making videos for Britney and Eminem and Lady Gaga. So while the plot of Detention unravels at its over-stuffed seams, at least it's gorgeous to look at.
This is why we've come to the conclusion that we'd rather watch Detention in manageable five-minute chunks. Kahn doesn't particularly care so much about the plot that you couldn't take a week-long break in between watching segments of Detention. The film would still look gorgeous and retain the laughs if it was broken down into a web series. In fact, it might actually save some viewers from fatigue, due to the insane pacing.
There is a very real chance that Detention could become the Donnie Darko of the Millennial Generation. But we're still not sure how anyone under 22 is going to get all of the Ralph Macchio quips, and how someone over 22 is going to keep up with this pace. You're either going to love Detention, or hate it. It has a lot of shining moments, including figuring out how to make Dane Cook funny again. Hopefully they won't get lost in Kahn's way-too-frenetic pace.