Lords of Dogtown Movie Review

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

2002's "Dogtownand Z-Boys" (now available in an excellentDVD) was an adrenaline-rush history of the Zephyr Skateboarding Team, adaredevil band of teenage surf bums who were the first to take wave-ridingmoves to the streets and empty swimming pools of drought-stricken SantaMonica in the early 1970s.

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

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

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

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

To be fair, measuring up to the wild imagination of "Dogtownand Z-Boys" would be almost impossiblefor any fictional flick saddled with keeping track of a narrative plot.This one could have been much worse. But your movie dollar would be betterspent renting the documentary, in which the home-movie footage of the realZ-Boys literally inventing half-pipe skateboardingbefore your eyes has 10 times the exhilaration of any scene from "Lordsof Dogtown."


Lords of Dogtown Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, June 3, 2005


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