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Movie Review: Lords of Dogtown

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When I first saw the trailer for this I was struck with a sense of deja vu. Just 4 years ago there was a documentary entitled Dogtown and Z-Boys. Ironically, the director of that documentary was also one of the subjects of it, and now is the writer of this dramatized version, Stacy Peralta. I thought that it looked pretty good, but soon forgot about it. Recently, though, the advertising campaign has been increasingly aggravating, I can’t seem to get away from the commercials and trailers. Despite that, I went to see it anyway, and surprise, I thought it was a good movie.

The film follows the rise of a trio of skateboarders during the rise of skating in the mid-1970’s. The film doesn’t really follow a strict narrative format, it is much more a slice of life. We follow them on their rise to fame and the problems that arise from said fame.

The film was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who was also behind the excellent Thirteen a couple of years back. She was a rather last minute replacement, as this was originally slated to be directed by Fred Durst, not sure how that would have worked out. Then when he fell out, producer, and excellent director in his own right, David Fincher stepped in to take the chair. He got as afar as doing set building and previsualizations, but then he stepped down and Catherine stepped in.

We get an excellent recreation of the look of the era on film. The colors seem a bit washed out and there is a decent amount of grain, all in the sense of style. Giving us a look into Venice Beach, the poor surfer neighborhood, focusing on Skip and his skate team, headed by Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta.

We watch these guys causing some general havoc in the streets, and developing from would be surfer’s to top skateboarders. By doing so, leading a revolution in the sport. The skating action is good, nothing like the stunts you can see today, but they are shot in an exciting fashion.

The characters are the interesting part of this exercise. Skip, as portrayed by Heath Ledger, is one of the more interesting and complex characters. On the surface he is a stoned out, drunk guy taking advantage of the kids, but at the same time he recognizes that he is in a role of a father figure for these kids. Ledger’s performance is out there, not really creating a likeable guy, but someone we see change over the course of the film, trying to step up for the responsibility that is thrust upon him. Very good performance. We get brief interactions between the kids and their parents. This gives an indication of their lives without hitting us over the head with it.

As the kids notoriety increases we see them grow apart as other influences creep into the rapidly expanding worldview, with some handling it better than others. The kids drift apart, still top skaters, but the directions they take are drastically different. The directions they take are a reflection of the way they lived their youth to a more extreme degree.

As we come to a close, a down revelation is made which results in a hopeful end for the future. It can be viewed as a downer of a finish, but it brings back the sweetness of the youth they had left behind not that long before.

Bottomline. Not a perfect film, but solidly entertaining. It makes me interested in seeing the documentary to see how faithful they are to each other. Some good performances, most notably Ledger, and Victor Rasuk as the brash Tony Alva. There are a number of supporting cast I didn’t mention, but they all add to the flavor of the movie.


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About Draven99


    Having grown up in that era, thought not a Cali Skatepunk, the look of the film is really authentic, it’s like a timewarp. I’ll probably check it out for nostalgia’s sake and to see some real grinding skateboard action.

  • Let me know what you think of the film. I need to see the documentary now, see how they compare especially being written by the same guy!