Lords Of Dogtown

You can't fake cool, which is one reason DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, superstar skateboarder-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta's 2003 documentary about his younger days as a member of the legendary Zephyr Skating Team, was so, well, rad. Peralta used vintage photos and Super-8 footage of the Z-Boys in action to capture their skills and authentic street style: Vans,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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You can't fake cool, which is one reason DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, superstar skateboarder-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta's 2003 documentary about his younger days as a member of the legendary Zephyr Skating Team, was so, well, rad. Peralta used vintage photos and Super-8 footage of the Z-Boys in action to capture their skills and authentic street style: Vans, tube socks, skinned knees, busted teeth. So if anyone could hope to carry that cool over into a Hollywood feature about these most unlikely sports heroes, the combination of Peralta himself, who wrote the screenplay, and director Catherine Hardwicke, whose debut feature, THIRTEEN (2003), told the unvarnished truth about California teen life, ought to do it. And, for a while, it does. Peralta (John Robinson), Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) and Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) are surfing the dangerous waves around and under the ruined piers of the derelict Pacific Ocean Park when Skip Engblom (a ragged and lockjawed Heath Ledger) has a eureka moment. Skip, the booze-pickled and sun-fried co-owner of the Zephyr surf shop, located in the dirty back end of Venice known as "Dogtown," decides that it's time to put together a skateboarding team. Newly minted urethane wheels mean that skateboards can now move in a more vertical direction, and even Skip can sense that the sport is about get a lot more hardcore. Jay and Tony are shoo-ins, but Skip isn't sure whether Stacy is enough of a "pirate" to qualify. Stacy, after all, wastes his time with that most uncool of extra-surfing activities: a part-time job. It's only after Stacy comes in second at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals — that now-legendary competition during which team Zephyr single-handedly revolutionized the sport by introducing moves heretofore known only to surfers — that Skip welcomes him into the club. It's a strong introduction that conveys just how radical the Z-Boys must have seemed at the time, while offering a convincing glimpse of where these kids came from. Far from the sun and sand of the California dream, Jay in particular lives a hardscrabble life with a burnt-out, free-spirit mom (Rebecca De Mornay) who can barely take care of herself. It's only when Peralta tries to pin a three-act story onto this mass of details that the original cool is quickly replaced by narrative cliché. The skating photography is excellent and, like the documentary's soundtrack, songs from the Stooges, Blue Oyster Cult and the Weirdos set the proper mood. But this dramatization does nothing Peralta's documentary didn't do better. And why opt for the imitation when the real deal is still out there for the viewing?

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: You can't fake cool, which is one reason DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, superstar skateboarder-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta's 2003 documentary about his younger days as a member of the legendary Zephyr Skating Team, was so, well, rad. Peralta used vintage photos an… (more)

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