Lords of Dogtown movie review, Catherine Hardwicke, Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from 'Lords of Dogtown'
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"Lords of Dogtown"
2 stars
105 minutes | Rated: PG-13
WIDE: Friday, June 3, 2005
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Starring Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, Johnny Knoxville, Michael Angarano, Eddie Cahill, Ned Bellamy, Nikki Reed, Rebecca De Mornay, Elden Henson, Sofia Vergara, America Ferrera, Joel McHale, William Mapother, Chelsea Hobbs, Reef Karim, Paulette Ivory, Vincent Laresca, Shea Whigham

Read our interview with Stacy Peralta & Tony Alva 2002 interview with the real
Stacy Peralta & Tony Alva

  Fictionalization of...
('02) "Dogtown & Z-Boys"
  • Skateboarding
  • Heath Ledger
  • Emile Hirsch
  • Johnny Knoxville
  • Sofia Vergara
  • America Ferrera

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    Fictionalized story of skateboarding's most influential innovators can't hold a candle to 2002's 'Dogtown & Z-Boys'

    By Rob Blackwelder

    "Lords of Dogtown" is a fictionalized account of the birth of modern skateboarding that doesn't have half the spontaneity and maverick spirit of the vivid, kinetic, crowd-pleasing documentary that inspired it.

    2002's "Dogtown and Z-Boys" (now available in an excellent DVD) was an adrenaline-rush history of the Zephyr Skateboarding Team, a daredevil band of teenage surf bums who were the first to take wave-riding moves to the streets and empty swimming pools of drought-stricken Santa Monica in the early 1970s.

    This handful of young turks (one of whom became the director of that film and the writer of this one) invented the board-gripping, back-scratching, wall-climbing style that launched the entire rebel culture of extreme sports -- but you wouldn't know it from "Lords of Dogtown," which concerns itself more with fabricated love triangles, unhappy home lives and rivalries that formed when fame came calling.

    While the performances of the young cast members -- key Z-Boys are played by John Robinson from "Elephant," Emile Hirsch from "The Girl Next Door" and Victor Rasuk from "Raising Victor Vargas" -- are multifaceted, they sometimes have the under-rehearsed feel of a bawdier after-school special. Or maybe that's just the clumsy expository dialogue: "Hey, I think we should start a skateboard team, man," says one shirtless, long-haired dude to another. "There's money in this!"

    Director Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen") lends the movie a low-budget, guerilla-style authenticity that is at its most legit in occasionally creative skateboarding camerawork and wipeouts clearly not staged by stuntmen. The movie has a vivid sense of the boys' shoddy "Dogtown" neighborhood (exemplified by the collapsed ruins of the Pacific Ocean Park pier), of their initial loyalty (to each other and their manager, played by Heath Ledger with a half-stoned Val-Kilmer-as-Jim-Morrison bent), and of how the team fell apart (Johnny Knoxville is well-cast as a scummy corporate sponsor dangling endorsement deals in front of them).

    But it takes Hardwicke half the movie and a couple of slick skateboarding scenes shot with handheld cameras to build up the energy "Lords of Dogtown" needs to sustain interest -- and even then there's little sense of the larger context, the Z-boys influence and innovation.

    To be fair, measuring up to the wild imagination of "Dogtown and Z-Boys" would be almost impossible for any fictional flick saddled with keeping track of a narrative plot. This one could have been much worse. But your movie dollar would be better spent renting the documentary, in which the home-movie footage of the real Z-Boys literally inventing half-pipe skateboarding before your eyes delivers 10 times the exhilaration of any scene from "Lords of Dogtown."

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