A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like most slasher flicks aimed at high schoolers, Detention is a crudely violent film with crass language and sex talk, including a couple of scenes with partial nudity. There's loads of the blood, gore, and at times comic violence expected from this genre, but there's also one scene of a girl trying to hang herself that might upset parents and disturb any teen who's ever dealt with suicidal thoughts or the suicide of a loved one. The language includes the usual suspects of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and other insults. There are lots of references to sex (including virginity, promiscuity, bodily fluids, etc.) and two quick glimpses of breasts and one of teens having sex in bed. Underage characters also drink, sometimes to the point of extreme drunkenness. Although there aren't many role models in the story, the movie does make audiences think about all of the stereotypes in popular teen horror films.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After Grizzly Lake High's queen bee is killed by a masked loon copying a popular slasher movie's villain, CinderHella, the entire school barely pauses to grieve her. Instead, the action follows a loose clique of friends: adorable skateboarding hipster Clapton (Josh Hutcherson); his smitten neighbor, smart social misfit Riley (Shanley Caswell); her ex-BFF, head cheerleader Ione (Spencer Locke); and nerdy lovable loser Mike (Aaron Perilo). Riley, who's suicidal over the fact that her love for Clapton is unrequited, narrowly escapes a CinderHella hacking and then spends most of the film trying to convince her pals that she's not making up the near-death encounter. Eventually the teen-hating principal (Dane Cook) punishes the foursome with a Breakfast Club-style Saturday DETENTION, where the identity of CinderHella takes time travel to uncover.
Is it any good?
Detention is easily the kind of hyper, overbearingly referential teen flick that could garner a cult following among audiences (read: teens). They could easily look past the exhaustive jumbling of genres and sheer number of inside jokes. It's definitely not just aimed at high schoolers, either, given that every other line of dialogue mentions an '80s or '90s show/song/film -- from The Karate Kid to My So-Called Life. But there's just too much of everything -- snarkily translated texts, meta commentary, Scream jokes -- to come together as a cohesive narrative. Not to mention that teen suicide gags are kind of tasteless. Want to kill the school mean girl? By all means. But making light of a girl trying to hang herself is cringe-worthy for any parent to watch.
Thanks to Hutcherson's high-profile role in The Hunger Games, Detention is likely to enjoy disproportionate interest. And as always, he's an actor who can do a lot with very little. He's got expressive eyes and an approachable attractiveness that makes him likable, even when the movie isn't. Just when you're ready to give up on Detention's frenetic blending and copying and ridiculing, it will offer up an extremely clever sequence that's genuinely entertaining. One such scene: joining the four central kids in detention is Elliot Fink (Walter Perez), a guy who claims he's sat in detention every day for nearly two decades. A hilarious montage ensues that proves that while fashion and music and technology may change, teenagers never really do.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the self referential way that Detention makes audiences think about slasher flick stereotypes. How do all the mentions of movies like Scream and other teen films highlight the formulaic nature of the high-school horror genre?
Is the violence in Detention actually scary? Why are so many horror films based in high school? Were the death scenes frightening? How does humor impact the movie's violence?
How is teen drinking depicted? Which characters got drunk, and how did drinking affect their actions and behavior? What are the real-life consequences of underage drinking?
The movie pokes fun at the constant use of technology by teens -- particularly texting. Does the movie make texting look useful, or is it also depicted as ridiculous?
- In theaters: April 13, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2012
- Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Spencer Locke
- Director: Joseph Kahn
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Company
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: High School
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violence, crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some teen drinking and drug use
- Last updated: November 24, 2019
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