HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:

Lords of Dogtown

Everyone should get the chance to be legend in their own mind. Screenwriter and former skateboard champion Stacy Peralta took it a step further by dubbing he and his friends "the legendary Z-Boys" and banging the drum for their legend long after popular culture had moved on, and has now moved back. Skateboarding is big again, though most of us are probably experiencing it through videogame consoles rather than scraping ourselves up.

Peralta walked the walk - with his friends practically invented the walk - and came out relatively unscathed. How a bunch of Venice Beach street rats rose to the top of their game really is the stuff of movies, if not of legend. In fact, it's almost too good to be true, which makes for a vaguely unsatisfying movie.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who proved her eye for teen life with the frightening Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown goes through all the right moves, but still comes up a little flat. Maybe the revelation behind these legends is that their story is far more interesting than they themselves actually were.

Almost everything about their backstories seems contrived, even though, according to the history books, this is pretty much how it happened. In an energetically staged opening, the main characters sneak out of their homes to try and catch some waves before school. Their devotion to surfing seems misplaced, as they clearly skate much better than they shoot the curl.

This inspires the Zephyr surf shop owner Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger) to form a skateboard team, especially once he sees them experimenting with wheels made from the new material "urethane." From there it's a story older than rock and roll - success will spoil some, ruin others and maybe the sweet kid that never hurt anybody will survive.

Hardwicke and Peralta assume we have a lot of prior knowledge. It isn't until about halfway into the film before anybody offhandedly references "Dogtown" (it's a poor neighborhood in Venice), and by the time we see how revolutionary the Zephyr team's style is, its impact is muted by our having been used to it. For an audience likely only familiar with modern guys like Tony Hawk, it might have been nice to see how sedate skateboarding used to be before the Z-explosion.

Still, Hardwicke proves she can handle the grit, and the scenes of competition are exciting to watch. When things get quiet, however, the drama never takes hold. Peralta's grasp of characterization doesn't help, as he never allows even his own namesake to show much depth. But it might have been nice if Hardwicke had resisted the urge to telegraph every conflict, never missing a chance to show jealous glowers long after we get the point.

All the young actors, however, do have a magnetism that holds the film together. In the unenviable task of playing the writer, John Robinson exudes sweetness (sorry, that's what it's supposed to be) without becoming cloying. Maybe Peralta made himself too noble, but Robinson makes it likable enough. As the cocky Tony Alva, Victor Rasuk still manages a vulnerability that keeps Alva from being annoying.

Tackling the most complex of the three main Z-Boys, Emile Hirsch tries his hardest with the role of Jay Adams. Called "the spark" in the closing credits, Adams could not handle the sudden fame. Partially due to bad business deals and partially due to the most troubled childhood, he ends up the tragic hero of Lords of Dogtown. Unfortunately, the script gives Hirsch little besides anger, though he displays an aggressive sexuality in a convincing seduction scene with Nikki Reed.

Serving as catalyst, father figure and obligatory surfer dude, Ledger steals every scene from his hapless young co-stars. Tricked out with slightly oversized teeth and a strange surfer cadence, he still gives the most nuanced performance. Paired with Hirsch, he provides one of the most real emotional moments of the film.

As fun to watch as it is, Lords of Dogtown doesn't have enough of those moments. It may be based on a true story and created by maverick artists, but it ends up feeling pure Hollywood.



Derek McCaw

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites