This is terrific teen Taylor Fisher (Alison Woods) and she's a self-described BITCH, that is, Beauty, Intelligence, Talent, Charisma and Hoobastank, that last still being totally relevant. She is here to inform you of her rules to live by, all the make sure you are the coolest person around, but as she goes through them, screaming at her family and applying herself to her goal, wouldn't you know it but a masked serial killer shows up in her bedroom and slashes her throat, stabs her then throws her out of the window to land on the car of her longsuffering mother. Meanwhile we meet our actual heroine, Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell), a self-described loser; that doesn't stand for anything, she is simply at the bottom of the social heap...
One of the fastest-paced comedies of all time, rivalling the fleetest screwball comedies of the nineteen-forties, Detention was dismissed as not another teen comedy when it was released, but the hardy few who decided to give it a try were rewarded with a genuinely smart and imaginative race through a collection of clichés turned right on their heads. It was true to say that in its drive to be as up to the minute as possible that even five years after it was unleashed it began to look its age, though whether that was the fault of the multiple pop culture references in the script or the way that consumers flitted from one shiny new thing to another with increasing abandon was not entirely clear.
Perhaps it was a bit of both, and you could well imagine Detention being one of the fallen soldiers in its field, a little neglected at the time and forgotten quickly, though the question was would it ever be rediscovered somewhere down the line? It starred Josh Hutcherson as the male lead (also a producer - precocious) who would go on to worldwide fame in The Hunger Games movies, but those would be the efforts for his fans, casual and dedicated alike, to seek out if they wanted their fix of him, not this hip and stuffed with stuff laughathon so much so that it was chaotic and hard to follow should you allow you attention to wander for a mere five seconds as it bounded across the screen pulling in all directions.
But if you were man, or woman, enough to take it, there were some really big chuckles to be gained here, although you were conscious that if you laughed at one joke for too long (a nanosecond, for example) then you would miss about five more. Was this a case of simply being so enthusiastic that any regard for the audience's focus flew out of the window, so before you knew what was happening this had transformed from slasher spoof to bizarre time travel variation on the high school-set Back to the Future, which since that was an eighties movie set in the fifties was updated to a twenty-tens experience partly set in the nineties (the late Taylor informs us the nineties are the new eighties at the beginning). If you usually wanted to avoid spoilers, this might be a case where being forewarned might be forearmed.
Director Joseph Kahn was a veteran of pop videos, and had helmed one of the most maligned, and therefore misunderstood, action movies of the early millennium in Torque, but here his material, while similarly tongue in cheek, was better crafted to his style. He was helped by a cast who were patently getting a kick out of their roles and sassy dialogue, with Caswell verbally bouncing off her co-stars as her character continually met with obstacles on her path to, if not blissful happiness, then at least getting through the day with a modicum of dignity intact. Other characters who might at first glance appear to be hackneyed ended up with weird quirks: the jock bully who is turning into a fly, or the dumb blonde who manages to bodyswap through time with her mother, which explains her constant nineties references. If there was a little laziness in identifying various bits by the hit records on the soundtrack, and by the finale it really had gotten absolutely preposterous, Detention contained more invention than any number of its peers, and was worth discovery, however long that would take. Music by Brain Mantia and Melissa Reese.