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Overall Rating
2.96

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 Peter Sobczynski

"Totally radical and rebellious-in a completely conformist and corporate way"
2 stars

“Lords of Dogtown” is a film that is obsessed with the notion of keeping it real–“it” in this case being the world of skateboarding–in the face of those willing to destroy its purity in their desire to transform it into just another bland money-making commodity. This is ironic when you consider that the film could be accused of doing pretty much the very same thing itself. This is a story that was originally told in a documentary a couple of years ago entitled “Dogtown and Z-Boys” and has now been thoroughly blanded out into a piece of product designed solely to grab money from audiences who wouldn’t ordinarily go near anything resembling a documentary. For those who actually caught the original film, seeing these events dumbed-down and recreated with actors is a bewildering experience–it like watching an especially inept dramatic recreation of all-too-familiar events that can’t help but ring false by comparison.

Set in the Venice Beach area of California in the mid-1970's, the film centers on three lifelong buddies–Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Stacy Peralta (John Robinson)–who hang out on the fringes of the surfing subculture led by proto-hippie Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger). Two events converge that will change their lives forever. The first is technological–the availability of skateboard wheels made of polyurethane, which allows them to grip the ground better in order to make more spectacular moves. The second is meteorological–a drought forces all of the swimming pools in the area to go dry. Using the kind of logic that occurs only in the minds of heedless teenagers, the trio decide to adapt their surfing moves to skateboarding and use the empty pools as a place where they can literally skate up the walls and beyond. The early scenes of the film are the best. Catherine Hardwick, in her follow-up to her monstrously overrated debut “Thirteen,” does a good job of establishing the chaotic days and crazy nights of the kids.

The local skating establishment doesn’t know what to make of this but the kids become overnight sensations and youth culture poster boys, leading to the downfall of both the Z-Boys (as they dub themselves) and the film itself. Because they are now cash cows, the guys are inundated with offers from other skateboard moguls, including one played by Johnny Knoxville, to dump the pure-but-cheap Skip and sign up with them and offers from ad men to have them plug everything from flimsy boards to Slinkys. Eventually, the trio split up and go their separate ways. Jay, the purest of the bunch, makes enough money to help out his poor-but-trashy mother (Rebecca De Mornay) before shaving his head and embracing the simple warmth and purity of the punk rock movement. Tony, on the other hand, is all about the money and signs up Knoxville and develops an ego of monstrous proportions while becoming the ultimate corporate tool. As for Peralta, he also becomes kind of a corporate tool himself–his adventures even lead to an appearance on “Charlie’s Angels,” but his sellout is portrayed in more noble and idealistic than Tony’s–this can probably be explained by the fact that Peralta also wrote the screenplay.

I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of “Dogtown and Z-Boys” (which Peralta also wrote and directed as well)–the point-of-view was too inside to be of any use to those not directly involved and Peralta’s constant insistence of the inspiring genius of himself and his friends quickly began to grate–but it was not without interest and did a good job of capturing the feel of the times. By comparison, “Lords of Dogtown” is an unholy mess that feels like a whole bunch of footage that has been randomly spliced together by people who know exactly what is going on without ever providing a frame of reference for those not in the know. After a while, all of the scenes of people skating up and down ramps begin to look alike and it becomes impossible to get what separates the Z-Boys from everyone else–instead, we get commentators telling us that their moves are unlike anything that they have ever seen and hangers-on constantly claiming that the guys are like gods. (Humility, thy name is Stacy Peralta.) Frankly, you will see more of the sheer poetry in motion that skateboarding can provide in the classic video for Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” than you will here and you will save yourself about 103 minutes of running time in the bargain.

The film fails on plenty of other levels as well. The three leads are all bland as can be (even Rasuk, who was electrifying as the star of “Raising Victor Vargas”) while Ledger seems to be drifting through his scenes doing a lame impression of The Dude from “The Big Lebowski.” At the same time, two highly charismatic performers, Nikki Reed (who starred in “Thirteen”) and America Ferrara (who can also be seen now in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) make brief appearances and are then all but forgotten in the boys-club atmosphere of the story. There are distracting cameos from Peralta and his buddies, including one nudge-nudge bit from Tony Hawk that is painfully unamusing and which goes on for far too long. Towards the end, perhaps realizing that there has been no particular reason to care about anything that has occurred, Hardwicke brings in a last-act cancer diagnosis to jerk tears as well as an embarrassing scene in which Hirsch and Ledger contemplate their futures while Neil Young warbles “Old Man” so that no one in the audience misses the point of the scene.

For those who already know the story of the skateboard scene from “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” “Lords of Dogtown” is an utterly useless piece of pap that degrades their scene far more than any outside interloper could have possibly managed. For those unfamiliar with it, there is nothing on display here that could possibly lead to developing any future interest in the subject. This is a loud, formless mess that is about as edgy as a punk-rock fashion department located in the middle of Wal-Mart and the only good thing about it is that it is so transparent in its attempts to seem hip and cool that I suspect that most kids will see right through it and avoid it like the plague.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12401&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/03/05 13:53:54
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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 $KiTTL3$--www.myspace.com/xxcrownoflovexx 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Jun-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Sep-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  25-Aug-2005




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