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Overall Rating

Awesome: 19.3%
Worth A Look: 24.56%
Average: 17.54%
Pretty Bad: 10.53%
Total Crap28.07%

6 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Lords of Dogtown
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by Erik Childress

"Well The World Needs Ditchdiggers Too!"
1 stars

Marty McFly aside, skateboarders are high up on my public nuisance scoreboard, ranking somewhere above mosquitos and downtown pedestrians. I certainly don’t want to label everyone with this hobby. My neighbors have been known to wheel out the homemade ramp and go to town in front of my driveway. It’s fun to watch them take air for a little while but then its time to get back to painting. It’s the other 99% of these transportation-challenged hobbyists who label themselves by screwing up traffic, disrespecting others on the sidewalk and somehow thinking their escapades are worthy of ESPN coverage and movies. The so-called Lords of Dogtown do themselves no justice with a film as goal-less as the lowest denominator slackers who want to be on summer vacation for the rest of their lives.

Based on the true story that inspired the documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, the filmmaker who lived through the events, Stacy Peralta, takes to screenwriting duties with all the presence of a 12-year old recounting their summer in an essay entitled “And then we did this…” The three characters we will follow are Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk), Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) and Peralta himself (played with all the gusto of a crème bath on tranquilizers by John Robinson).

The easiest way to sum up these kids (or just about anyone in the film) is that they are incredibly unlikable from the get-go. They skate onto cars, damage property, nearly cause accidents, flick off strangers and those who honk at them. They are punks. No argument to be had. Jay, at least early on, has the admirable notion of using his talent to make enough money so his mom can get out of the lamp factory. But he and the film forget all about her and Jay becomes the biggest malcontent of them all. The fact that she’s played by Rebecca DeMornay continues Hirsch’s recent link to making films with a connection to Risky Business.

The story (if it can be called that) takes place in 1975 on the streets and piers of Venice, California where surfing and skating are all these modern hippies really know. The kids hang around with Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger doing his best Val Kilmer impression), who owns a small surf shop and somehow looks at the kids testing out the new urethane wheels and sees there’s money in this. A few competitions later and they are being called the best skaters out there and gracing the covers of magazines while trespassing into empty pools during the drought and looting houses. Punks!

Who the heroes, anti-heroes and true villains of this time is left up to an imagination beyond the reach of the filmmakers. It’s not a formula sports picture, so there is no great skate-off. All unlikability aside the question becomes who should we be rooting against? Is it the marketers offering them riches to exploit their talent? Is it Alva who jumps at the first chance to ditch Skip? Is it Jay who turns down a $10,000 offer from Slinky to be their spokesperson in front of the very mother he promised to help? Is it Skip for not cutting the trio in on the profits of his exploding skate business (which we barely learn about)? Is it Peralta who just seems clueless throughout everything that goes on? What are we hoping happens to these kids other than wiping out under a semi?

Skateboarding is too reckless an activity to not have one shot of a kid truly injured. You can’t learn these tricks without face planting yourself into cement at least ten times before perfecting your skill. Here they wipeout once and become champions. No broken bones. Not a shot of blood. Just one serious spill cured by the healing power of weed (which will come full circle for a more naturally fateful character.) Peralta probably could have fallen on his ass a hundred times since he certainly has no backbone to break. He barely has a care in the world when his girlfriend and Alva’s sister, Kathy (Nikki Reed) dumps him for Jay since he is more willing to make out with her in front of her brother. The very same brother suggested not to be cool with Peralta hanging with her in the first place but has no problem with her taking her pants off for Jay in the same bedroom where he is macking on his girl. Their father clearly has more troublesome things to worry about then his son becoming a ditchdigger.

And I am troubled that I will be going to my grave believing that Gleaming the Cube is the best narrative Hollywood has to offer on the subject. If you have your shot to make the ultimate skateboarding movie wouldn’t you do everything in your visual bag of tricks to guarantee that it will come off just short of an IMAX experience in the coolness department? Director Catherine Hardwicke puts a small camera next to the wheels for one scene (which is interesting if you like looking at cement) and into the eyes of one on a half-pipe (the same effect achieved by placing a camera inside the cage of the Zipper at a carnival.) If this is the best you can do with thrashin’ I can see why David Fincher bailed on the project.

Beware of any film where the only positive you can take away is a Heath Ledger performance. You have to give him props for at least creating a character and infusing some drive into a film which has none; downing burgers the way Will Ferrell does coffee in Kicking and Screaming. Like the grinding sound of the board’s sharp stops, Lords of Dogtown has a nails-on-chalkboard effect combined with an immaturity at the rudimentary levels of screenwriting and direction. Hardwicke, who began with a script from a thirteen-year old (and feeling every bit its age) for her debut, Thirteen, has somehow regressed even further with Peralta who gets a self-congratulatory “award-winning filmmaker” label as a coda. For someone whose sole theme of the film regards selling out one’s talent to corporate sponsors, he should have noticed the irony that he’s now involved with a multi-million dollar production based on the documentary he already made and won awards for. Credit Hardwicke though for finding the perfect final image to encapsulate the film: A kid in a wheelchair, practically lobotomized by brain surgery, sitting in an empty pool surrounded by unlikable skateboarders. Rad!

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originally posted: 06/03/05 14:03:32
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User Comments

1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
9/21/08 Francesca Would've been enjoyable if I got to see one of these bastards wasted. 3 stars
9/13/06 Spencer This is a great and realistic movie that everyone, skaters or not, can enjoy. 5 stars
8/14/06 Sharon LOVE the movie but not a good johnny knoxville charector AT ALL 5 stars
12/16/05 Danny Some cool skating, but rather dismal otherwise. 3 stars
10/20/05 Tabatha The best Movie ever 5 stars
10/19/05 the_only_blk_guy says: You are Fucking Retards this movies badass! And i didnt like skateboarding, until now. 5 stars
10/11/05 Tom Burns I really enjoyed it. check it out. 4 stars
8/25/05 $KiTTL3$ I thought this movie was really great, and it was better than Grind..Emile i love you 5 stars
8/22/05 ES Long, drawn out. Thought Heath was Val Kilmer for half the movie, overall watchable 3 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins Boring and stupid, is that what they were going for? 1 stars
6/29/05 sara this is the best movie i have seen in a long time!!! 5 stars
6/28/05 katie hirsch emile im goin to be in a love scene with u one day 5 stars
6/21/05 John Allen Perralta should be jailed for this screenplay but, he wasn't a z-boy anyway was a z-boy 1 stars
6/20/05 Amanduh Amazing movie. If anyone has a problem with it, then dont get into skateboarding. 5 stars
6/20/05 Colton"Tater Salad"Kearney The Best This Year 5 stars
6/10/05 Rock-Steady Any movie about skateboarding is gay beacause, in fact, skateboarding is gay. 1 stars
6/09/05 b landers It was watchable 3 stars
6/06/05 Amy Kennedy this movie rocks. The reviewers are pansy nerds! 5 stars
6/05/05 brody an inaccurate portrale of the acutal events half of it was exagerated from jelously 1 stars
6/04/05 Debra Definitely a fun movie! Emile was interesting to watch, and Heath played lunacy, well. 5 stars
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  03-Jun-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Sep-2005



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