Stacy Peralta is an accomplished individual. At one time he was one of the best skateboarders in the world, starting a successful skateboarding company, discovering skating god Tony Hawk and establishing himself as a talented documentary filmmaker with movies like ‘Riding Giants’ and ‘Z-Boys and Dogtown.’
Unfortunately, he is not much of a screenwriter, as seen in the June 3 release of ‘Lords of Dogtown,’ directed by relative newcomer Catherine Hardwicke, based on true events and Peralta’s award-winning documentary.
‘Dogtown,’ which follows the quick rise of Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta as surf-wannabes to skateboarding legends, starts out strong with an interesting first half which seems to fizzle in direct proportion to the skateboarders’ rise. They are referred to as ‘Z-boys,’ because they lead the Zepher skate team, run by alcoholic surfboard maker and skateboard innovator Skip Engblom.
Hardwicke, a former production designer, continues to prove herself as an up-and-coming director, even with poor material. A hot commodity after her breakout film ‘Thirteen,’ she was courted by Sony Pictures after David Fincher (‘Three Kings’) required too large a budget and shifted his role as producer.
Some applause should be given to Hardwicke for keeping this movie as realistic as possible under a PG-13 rating. With a movie about young skateboarders, and considering a target audience of 13-year-olds, it would be important, I imagine keeping the movie as clean as possible.
I appreciated the grittiness and realism of this movie, as much as I could, keeping in mind the rating, a characteristic for which Hardwicke was apparently recruited. ‘Dogtown’ has that gray, hazy look found in ‘Thirteen,’ which works well for a movie about Los Angeles. There were enough drug references, racial and socioeconomic issues, and sexual connotation to make the movie feel somewhat similar to what the era must have been like.
At one point in the film, Hardwicke, who learned to skate before the film, fell while skating in an empty pool, knocking herself unconscious for two minutes. The crew though she was dead before she got up and dusted herself off.
The movie is well-acted for what the script offers, which isn’t much. John Robinson (‘Elephant’), Emile Hirsch (‘The Girl Next Door’), Victor Razuk (‘Raising Victor Vargus’) all embrace the obviously different personae of their real-life counterparts. Hirsch, who always seems to be on the verge of breaking out since ‘Secret Lives of Altar Boys,’ is the most vibrant on screen, but may remain below the radar with this film. Robinson and Razuk also perform, but are ultimately forgettable.
For people who go to this movie for the skateboarding, the result is a two-sided coin. The skateboarding looks really good. One of the best parts in the movie is when the Z-boys empty pools as their new playground. It is here that they really hone their skill, create something new and show off some skills. Hardwicke shoots action well, making most of the skateboarding scenes entertaining.
Unfortunately, skateboarding in the 1970s was not anything close to what it is now, which makes it a bit hard to get excited about. The three lead actors in the movie learned and skated through most of the movie. Because this is about the beginning of skateboarding, all the elemental aspects of the sport