There is not a whole lot of story to the cinematic adaptation of Stacy Peralta's memoir of his experience in the mid 1970s with the popularization of skateboarding. Nor is there a whole lot of character development in these teenagers addicted to skateboarding among other things. But what LORDS OF DOGTOWN is, is a spectacular cinematic excursion into the risks and exaltations of the sport of championship skateboarding: watching the thrills of these kids doing dangerous leaps, twists, airborne stunts in empty swimming pools is truly entertaining.
The film is set in 1975 when surfing was all the rage, especially in Venice, CA where one Skip (Heath Ledger) owns a surfboard shop. He befriends a scrappy bunch of teenagers who live their lives for skateboarding along Venice Beach and in private homes where empty swimming pools (this was the era of water conservation!) provide provocative arenas for their skills. The lead among them is Jay (Emile Hirsch) who is out to explore new challenges and when he and his confreres Stacy (John Robinson), Tony (Victor Rusak), and Sid (Michael Angarano) demonstrate the way skateboarding pleases crowds and girls, Skip cashes in on the enterprise by forming Zephyr, a club for championship skateboarding and enters his groupie into the competition circuit. As the boys gain fame they are tempted away from Skip into higher profile gigs and the group disintegrates only to reform after a tragedy befalls one of them.
The screenplay was written by Stacy Peralta (and that may explain why his role is a bit too goodie-two-shoes when compared to the antics of the other boys) and while there isn't a lot of dialogue of significance, there is a lot of communication very much in tune with the historic time of the action. Catherine Hardwicke has an amazing sense of the teenage attitude and vulnerability and keeps the story 'skating' with staggering momentum. The cast is uniformly fine: Heath Ledger shows he can be something other than the Hollywood leading man type and Emile Hirsch, Victor Rusak, and John Robinson are all on target with their roles. Newcomer Michael Angarano shows the promise in this film that resulted in his superb role in the current 'One Last Thing' - his screen presence is magnetic.
In all this is a recreation of a wild period of life in a bizarre era staged in a rickety old version of Venice, CA and it gives the viewer a slice of atmosphere that will likely not be re-created as well. Grady Harp, May 06
After slowly getting over the news of Heath Ledger's death, I wanted to watch him again in one of his movies. Although I like Brokeback Mountain, I prefer this one. It's the story of the Z-Boys, four teenage surfer friends who in the mid seventies take up skate boarding and thus change the world of sports forever. Heath is "Far Out!" Skip, a surfer and surf store owner who is the first to recognize the kids' talents. He pushes them (calling him a manager … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Lords of Dogtowncaptures the sheer kinetic joy of skateboarding like no other movie (except, perhaps,Dogtown and Z Boys, a documentary about the very skateboarders this movie depicts). Set in the mid-1970s in Venice, CA--a.k.a. Dogtown--the movie starts with three young aspiring surfers turned skateboarders: Stacy (John Robinson,Elephant), Jay (Emile Hirsch,The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys), and Tony (Victor Rasuk,Raising Victor Vargas). When alpha-stoner Skip (Heath Ledger,A Knight's Tale) recognizes the potential of skateboarding as a new sport, his surf shop becomes the center of the boys' universe. They swiftly rise as skateboarding stars and find their brotherhood threatened by sex, money, fame, and ego--it's a common enough story, but director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) has a gift for capturing the raw messiness of life.Lords of Dogtownseems to unfold haphazardly, yet every scene moves the increasingly dizzy rise (or fall) of each skater forward with headlong momentum. The excellent cast includes Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business), Johnny Knoxville (Jackass: The Movie), and Nikki Reed (Thirteen).Lords of Dogtown, written by skater Stacy Peralta (and based on his own life), both celebrates the excitement of testosterone-fueled recklessness and quietly reflects on the cost of getting what you want.--Bret Fetzer