Lords of Dogtown
"Lords of Dogtown" feels like half a movie that's been stretched to look like a whole one. In other words, there's simply not enough story here to warrant a whole film. To make matters worse, the characters aren't interesting enough to carry what little story there is.
Skateboarding may have been compelling at one time, but now most of us identify it with obnoxious kids whose sole interest in life appears to be ruining public property by leaving black streaks all over the place and chipping paint off railings. Even more obnoxious (or perhaps "creepy" is the better word) is the adult skateboarder still mired in the sport well past its maximum appropriate age of, well, 12.
Back in the '70s though, if we're to believe this film, there was basically no such thing as skateboarding until a surf shop owner named Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger) found a supplier for urethane wheels and attached them to the boards of Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk), Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) and Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), and formed the Zephyr skateboarding team that started doing stunts nobody had ever seen before. The film is essentially the fictionalization of Peralta's documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys."
There must have been more interesting skateboarders at the dawn of the sport than these three, and director Catherine Hardwicke is forced to make more out of their limited personalities than the actors' skills warrant. Horribly miscast, Emile Hirsch turns into a punk and looks ridiculous doing so, while John Robinson moves along in the personality-free role, and Victor Rasuk mugs for the camera every chance he gets. He reminded me of Vinnie Barbarino on "Welcome Back, Kotter."
Unable to figure out where to take the story, the filmmakers turn toward a character who's barely in the film, Sid (Michael Angarano). Sid becomes suddenly interesting because he develops a brain tumor, thereby bringing the three estranged friends together for one final skateboarding frolic in Sid's formerly off-limits pool. It's the kind of false sentimentality that would be utterly numbing if it weren't based on some fact, but even then, its use as the film's climax just highlights the film's complete ineptitude.
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