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  •  REVIEW: LORDS OF DOGTOWN

    Lords of Dogtown

    Keeping it wheel

    "Lords of Dogtown," based on the documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys," wobbles when it tries to add drama to the lives of the skateboard pioneers, but stays on a roll when it sticks to the skating.

    By JASON GREY
    Offoffoff.com

    I remember watching the Bones Brigade skate videos as a kid. The image of a skull and skeletal hands emerging from an Air Force-like emblem is forever etched in my brain. Names like Stacy Peralta, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill, and Steve Caballero, were the big names at the time. Back then it was about long grinds and catching air. It wasn't about appreciating skateboard history and aesthetics.

      
    LORDS OF DOGTOWN
    Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke.
    Written by: Stacy Peralta.
    Cast: John Robinson, Emile Hirsch, Rebecca De Mornay, William Mapother, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Victor Rasuk, Nikki Reed, Heath Ledger, Vincent Laresca, Brian Zarate, Pablo Schreiber, Elden Henson, Michael Angarano, Mitch Hedberg, Benjamin Nurick.
    Cinematography: Elliot Davis.
    Edited by: Nancy Richardson.

    Related links: Official site
    The 2002 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" pulled no punches in letting its audience know that the success of Tony Hawk's "Pro Skater" video game and worldwide contests like the X-Games spawned from a Venice, California, surf shop called Zephyr. "Dogtown and Z-Boys" is full of in-depth interviews with Craig Stecyk, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams, discussing how their culture entered the mainstream.

    Inspired by these events, "Lords of Dogtown" is a dramatization of the teenage lives of Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta. Peralta also wrote the screenplay for "Lords of Dogtown" and directed the "Dogtown" documentary. As one who thought that "Dogtown and Z-Boys" was rather amazing. "Lords of Dogtown" falls short, but at the same time it fills in the gaps that couldn't be visualized in the documentary.

    "Lords of Dogtown" focuses on four of the Z-Boys: Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, Sid Gianetti and Zephyr surfboard-shop owner and skate-team founder Derrick "Skip" Engblom. Living in lower-class Venice Beach circa 1975, Jay, Tony, and Stacy wake up before sunrise to surf the waves by the Pacific Ocean Park Pier. They come from single-parent homes and most of the adult supervision they receive is from Skip and his co-workers.

    Lords of Dogtown  
    Once urethane skateboard wheels are invented and introduced, the Dogtown skaters go wild for them. The entrepreneurial Skip sees dollar signs in making skateboards and decides to create a team. He then enters the team into a skate contest where they wow the spectators along with the organizers. From their success at this competition the movie follows the boys' rise to celebrity as the skaters obtain sponsorships and national fame.

    Amidst this fame and fortune thrill-ride, "Lords of Dogtown" tries to depict a tale of brotherhood and family amongst the skate team. For with all of their success, the Zephyr team has a hard time staying together. Money-hungry Skip and his business become torn by his greed and loss of group control as Alva and Peralta join other teams while Jay Adams becomes more involved in youth gang activity.

    It's here where "Lords of Dogtown" falters, a bit. The film presents the elements of skate history very well, highlighting the wild and energetic life on a skateboard, but off the skateboard, as it tries to give the audience some character development and dramatic tension, things tend to fall flat. The lifestyle is understood and the impressions come across, but they don't always connect — particularly the scenes between Jay Adams and his mother, Philaine (Rebecca De Mornay doing her best burnt-out flower-girl impression). What should come across as sweetly affectionate is lackluster. The same can be said about depictions of other relationships the boys have with girls.

    "Lords of Dogtown" does well when it steps back and gives a fly-on-the-wall presentation of skateboarding and the tension of competition, but as it draws closer to show the intricacies of personal relationships, it becomes rushed and undeveloped.

    These faults aside, the movie has some powerful moments and is still entertaining. There are some impressive skateboard action sequences, although the tricks shown are archaic compared to today's standards. Heath Ledger is unrecognizable as the arrogant and constantly drunk Skip. Victor Rasuk ("Raising Victor Vargas") does well as the ultra-competitive Tony Alva. John Robinson ("Elephant") also gives a good performance as the responsible and calculated Stacy Peralta, as does Michael Angarano (TV's "Will and Grace") as rich-kid Sid. Emile Hirsch keeps it as real as he can as Jay Adams, the skater who is credited with pushing the boundaries of skateboarding but comes out of the capitalized skate machine with the least. With this young, charismatic cast playing wild teenage boys, "Lords of Dogtown" has the potential to become "The Outsiders" for this generation.

    If you need a rating, I give "Lords of Dogtown" a 720 backside grab compared to a 900 frontside grab over the channel.

    JUNE 1, 2005
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Lords of Dogtown:

  • Luv it   from Cassi, Oct 3, 2005
  • Re: Luv it   from ~Jessica~, Oct 4, 2005
  • Re: Luv it   from Haelie, Dec 10, 2005
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  • movies   from Shy'la fischer, Jul 3, 2007
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  • the guys of dogtown   from ???, Dec 2, 2007
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  • tony and jay r so hot   from briana, May 2, 2010
  • [no subject]   from , Aug 19, 2010
  • [no subject]   from aliya mccarty, Mar 6, 2011

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