Dogtown And Z-Boys Movie Review
Dogtown refers to a downtrodden section of the Venice and Santa Monica beach communities that was home to the Jeff Ho and Zephyr Production Surf Shop in the mid '70s. The shop also served as a meeting place for a group of misfit local teenagers, whom the store's owners, Jeff Ho, Skip Engbloom and Craig Stecyk, have assembled into a fearless unit known as the Zephyr Skating Team. Collectively and individually, these kids would revolutionize the sport and culture of skateboarding.
Learning their moves from famous surfers such as Larry Bertelman, the Z-Boys introduced the Dogtown style to the world, infusing a previously unseen sense of athleticism, daring into the traditional mode of upright skating. Deep knee-bends, razor sharp turns and high-flying aerial maneuvers would soon become skating staples after the Zephyr team first received national exposure during the Del Mar Nationals in 1975. The team continued to perfect its skills on the playgrounds of Dogtown's elementary schools and empty swimming pools, which were plentiful during the Southern California drought of the 1976 and '77. But with the increasingly risky skating techniques also came a wild lifestyle as well as the intrusion of outside sources that would ultimately lead to the group's undoing.
As the documentary progresses, it focuses on three particular Z-Boys who became superstars in the sport: Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams. Each of these figures' lives would follow a different, unique trajectory following their initial success. Peralta and Alva enjoyed popularity that would land them endorsement deals, guest spots on television shows, and promotional tours to all corners of the globe. Their influence is directly responsible for the current boom of "extreme sports."
Narrated by Sean Penn and piecing together old movie footage (much of it shot by co-writer and highly influential surf/skate artist/writer Craig Stecyk), still photographs, and recent interviews with many of the participants, the documentary uses a high-powered soundtrack and tasteful editing tricks to propel its fun, freewheeling narrative method. As flashy as the film may be, it translates a totally grounded understanding of its net effect -- complete, unadulterated pleasure.
Peralta, as intimate with his material as any filmmaker can possibly be, goes to great lengths to ensure the film communicates in a comprehensible vernacular. He never pretends that his subjects are anything more than what they are: Pop culture icons that were mostly unknown to a mass audience and now, perhaps, largely forgotten by those who once embraced them. It's a wonderful, honest tribute to a very personal piece of the filmmaker's history.
Dogtown and Z-Boys is a thrilling experience, and one that can be thoroughly enjoyed even if you're unable to discern a "kickflip" from a "frontside air."
The DVD release is tailored for the skating-obsessed, with extended "raw" skate footage (accessible during the film a la The Matrix DVD), an extra scene set in 2000, production notes, trailers, and a commentary from Peralta and editor Paul Crowder. You won't learn any new moves, sad to say, but you will want to dust off your old board in the garage.
A nice, big pipe.