Lords of Dogtown

6 out of 10


Skateboarding's Formative Years

They were legendary in their time. For those following the rise of skateboarding in the 1970's, the Z-Boys, including Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, became idols, if not gods. Frequently featured in magazines, particularly Skateboarder, surfboard designer Jeff Ho and the Zepher Skate Team rose from a life of poverty near Venice Beach, California to fame and stardom following the 1975 Del Mar Nationals and ensuing competitions. This new release written by Stacy Peralta and based loosely on his documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys," both chronicles the history of the sport and follows the lives of it's members during skateboarding's formative years.

Now known for his documentary films which have been hits at the Sundance Festival, with Dogtown, Peralta has revisited his childhood to create a picture that will bring a sense of nostalgia to the first generation of skateboarders and some of the original excitement of the fledgling years of the sport to the screen for a new generation. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen"), known for her interest in teenage life, it successfully captures a feel of California of the 1970's and a sense of freedom and spirit of youth. With close shots of skateboarding and surfing, re-creation of competitions and an excellent soundtrack by Mark Mothersbaugh ("The Royal Tenenbaums"), it also reconstructs the essence of the time period and a sense of the hope and escape the Zepher Team and skateboarding gave many of it's members of the time.

A low point, unfortunately, are the more serious moments, such as the downward spiral of the life of Jay Adams and the fame and wealth, the excesses of which threatened to destroy all the members of the team. Poorly scripted and often short and overly dramatized, these components of the story are not handled as clearly as in the 2002 documentary version and leave the film feeling directionless and unclear. Heath Ledger's Skip, who seems to be a combination of Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom, is definitely not his best role and is only saved by more passable performances by John Robinson (Elephant) as Stacy Peralta, Emile Hirsch as Adams and Michael Angarano (Sky High) as Sid.

Although a dramatized version of events, it still manages to have it's moments and is a moving look at skateboarding for those interested in the sport. As a true biography of the Z-Boys or for those looking for a more serious tale, with an overly scattered plot, it is poor at explaining anything in close detail but is entertaining as a look back at the world of early competitions and the lives of three people integral to the formation of the sport today.

Has It's Moments

Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies