I think even during my days when I was all about KISS (1997-2003), I would have probably found “Phantom of the Park” kind of banal and run of the mill. It’s not so much that it’s a bad movie, but it’s kind of monotonous and tedious, even for the most forgiving fanatic. I mean forgiving as in you even accept their lame attempt at disco: “I Was Made for Loving You.” It’s so void of narrative or substance that not even the great rock music and theatrics from the band at the height of their fame can save what is a ton of filler and about twenty minutes of actual narrative.
“Phantom of the Park” is the adventures of larger than life rock band KISS and their efforts to thwart a diabolical plan by mad scientist Abner Devereaux during a big amusement park opening. Devereaux has found a way to clone humans into robots in his laboratory at an amusement park. It just so happens that he plans to uses the highly anticipated KISS concert as a platform to unleash his devious plan on the world and seek revenge on the park owner. Not so secret superheroes KISS must use their special powers to stop him and perform their concert for their cavalcade of paid extras—er fans!
“Phantom of the Park” has picked up a ton of cult momentum since its days as a goofy TV movie turned sought after out of print musical. Overall, the movie is a mix of “Scooby Doo,” “The Impossibles,” and “West World” where KISS finds time to perform and fight crime. It’s almost like one of the many Hanna Barbera series’ from the seventies and eighties starring people like Mr. T, Harlem Globetrotters, and The Beatles. “Phantom of the Park” is only a movie that really features KISS, as most of it is devoted to a park engineer using technology to build an army of robots and two nosy teens trying to stop them. Meanwhile the movie becomes interesting to watch mainly because of everything that happens behind the scenes that drips in to the movie.
There is Peter Criss being dubbed over (by prolific voice actor Michael Bell) because Criss was too wasted most of the time to mutter any kind of dialogue. There’s the god awful green screen. And, of course, there’s Ace Frehley being replaced by an obvious African American stunt double who the director works hard to look like the rocker. It’s sadly about as noticeable and awkward as the Lugosi double in “Plan Nine.” As a KISS fan I guess this is a movie you could watch just to say that you did, but there’s not much of an argument for why this must be seen throughout its entire run time. The premise is pulled off so much better in 2015’s “Scooby Doo! Meets Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery,” which I highly doubt is by coincidence.