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A fictionalized take on the group of brilliant young skateboarders raised in the mean streets of Dogtown in Santa Monica, California. The Z-Boys, as they come to be known, perfect their craft in the empty swimming pools of unsuspecting suburban homeowners, pioneering a thrilling new sport and eventually moving into legend. Written by
Unnecessarily redundant: the legend askew. (spoilers)
You have two ways of learning about the early history and transformation of skateboarding from kiddie fad to extreme commercial success. That is, through former Z-Boy Stacey Peralta's stylish documentary released in 2002, or through the 2005 fictionalized Hollywood mainstream feature inspired by the events (and directed by 'Thirteen' director Catherine Hardwicke and written by Peralta).
While I thoroughly enjoyed the former, I was quite disappointed with the latter. And, the argument that it can only be appreciated and understood by the most hardcore of skaters is completely stupid. You don't have to skate well (or at all) to enjoy a good skate movie.
Unfortunately, unlike Peralta's fantastic documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, this fictionalized "legend" paid little homage to the sport itself and the Zephyr team (beyond just Peralta, Alva, and Adams). Lords of Dogtown, without context and with such annoyingly abrupt and disoriented storytelling almost makes it like Stacey Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams invented skateboarding. Dogtown, the sacred skater tale turned mainstream, has been given a Hollywood polish, establishing a mythical celebration of personal arrogance rather than honest insight for the team and the sport. And that leaves little to distinguish it from other Hollywood productions. Instead, there was little focus on how these teenagers love of skating completely revolutionized the skateboarding in ways that relieved it of a tired 1960s paradigm and transforming and laying the foundation for primitive technology with the most intense performance (not to mention a substantial commercial success even to this day). This this legend is told slightly askew.
Above all else (and I believe this was due to legal problems), critical founders of the team as well as members of the team themselves were omitted entirely. You're just watching the Embloom, Adams, Alva, and Perlata show the whole time. Jeff Ho, cofounder of Zephyr surf shop, was absent. As were team riders Paul Constantineau, Nathan Pratt, and others seen in the documentary (although, I can see why Chris Cahill was out). Bob Biniak was a tremendous skater in his day. As was Shogo. Where were they? (Granted, Shogo has about a two-second scene).
Likewise, the events in the story appear to move too fast and in such a scattered manner, dwarfing their true impact on the changes that skateboarding would undergo. The viewer is never really given time to digest it, or actually, to appreciate what it was about the Z-boyz style of skating that was so important when reviewing the sport. The skateboarding contest was ridiculous and rather condescending, if not simply exaggerated.
Watching this movie was as though you watched the documentary and pulled pieces from it which were to be given greater anecdotal backstory such as Skip Embloom's obnoxious presence at the Del Mar contests, Jay Adam's wild nature (only they thought to reference this at unusual points of the film), or Sid, the young man who died of brain cancer who's Dog Bowl swimming pool sessions in the last moments of his life were credited for reuniting the Z-Boyz for a few last runs (although the documentary features more than just the same three skaters skating in these sessions). But like everything else, nothing was told in a way fully developed enough to give the viewer some sense of order, never mind some sense of appreciation of what the stories of Dogtown. The film actually tries to duplicates sections of the documentary, as well, including the soundtrack ('Old man look at my life...' plays when Jay scores poorly at what appears to be his last contest; Ted Nugent's 'Cat Scratch Fever' cues at the contest). What was the purpose for trying to duplicate what was already a finely crafted documentary? I can't help but to look at this as an exhaustive attempt to praise Alva, Adams, and Peralta, or the Dogtown in general because people could be satisfied with the documentary alone as well-made as it was. Instead, some have found an opportunity to cash in even further on the fact that now the mainstream not only knows the story, but now knows the name of those most recognized from the team (and Engbloom, but only because of Heath Ledger being cast in the film).
Aside from shoddy story telling, the acting wasn't great. Victor Rasauk was a miscast. Emille Hirsch never fully captures Jay Adams as the rambunctious pre-fame youngster and spent most of the film giving his trademark distant stares, regardless of mood changes. John Robinson did alright as Peralta, probably because Perlata himself was able to coach him. My biggest complaint with casting is that they should've hired actual skaters to play the parts rather than succumb to the marketing potential of the pre-teen crowd. (The names are obviously a draw, cashing in on the pret-teen girl market). Although, the skating sequences were nice enough to make you want to grab a board and go out and dig up old snake runs.
If you are in the mood for a Dogtown tale because it is about skateboarding first and foremost, you would do best to capture the history in it's most stylish and honorable form in Peralta's documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys.
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