Lords of Dogtown
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Catherine Hardwicke
scr Stacy Peralta
with John Robinson, Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, Heath Ledger, Michael Angarano, Johnny Knoxville, Rebecca De Mornay, Nikki Reed, America Ferrera, Eddie Cahill, Vincent Laresca, Elden Henson
release US 3.Jun.05, UK 16.Sep.05
05/US Columbia 1h47

The Z-boys arrive: Robinson, Ledger, Rasuk and Hirsch

robinson hirsch ledger

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Lords of Dogtown After his superb documentary Dogtown and Z-boys, Peralta revisits his youth once again. This dramatised version is stylishly directed, with a striking young cast. Despite the usual difficulty of people scripting their own stories, the film has an energetic fighting spirit.

In their late teens, Stacy, Jay and Tony (Robinson, Hirsch and Rasuk) are best friends in 1975 Venice Beach, aka Dogtown, resisting responsibility to instead surf and skate the days away. Then Zephyr board-builder Skip (Ledger) gets some urethane wheels, and they're suddenly able to skate up the walls of pools emptied as a result of a summer drought. Their new skills rock the sport, stealing it from the nerds and creating a very cool subculture. But now they have to deal with sudden fame and fortune.

The main problem is that this terrific story was much more powerfully told in Peralta's doc. Transforming it into a drama proves tricky, mostly because he refuses to use a specific point of view, following all three central characters' journeys, plus a few sideroads. So the plot feels both fuzzy and forced. Fortunately, Hardwicke and her Thirteen cinematographer Elliot Davis drench the film in brilliant 1970s sunshine, capturing the feeling of an endless California summer.

And the cast is superb--both the actors and the real guys who appear in witty cameos. Surprisingly, the most endearing character is Skip, entertainingly well-played by Ledger as a grown man who just wants to enjoy life. And clearly has. Well, what he can remember of it. Robinson, Hirsch and Rasuk are excellent, adding layers to the rather simplistic script, which tries to make each a one-note character: Stacy's driving sense of goodness, Jay's bad-boy ferocity, Tony's love of excess.

This focus on their personalities is strong--examining their reactions to what happens in their lives, rather than that these guys quite literally changed the world. But as a writer Peralta is a bit too subjective, especially when he paints himself as the only level-headed Z-boy. And when he starts getting preachy, we can feel his screenwriting classes kicking in. He doesn't believe it; and neither do we.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, drugs 20.Jul.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Lords of Dogtown ohjustagirl71, net: 5/5 "The documentary Dogtown and Z-boys is one of the best I've seen. Saw this motion picture and thought it was great. Made me want to look for more information on the Z-Boys." (7.Jun.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall