The Lords Of Dogtown

Lords of Dogtown

So, I got in on a free pass to the Lords of Dogtown a couple of days before the general release. Much has been said for and against this movie (it ain’t no film) and with the backlash that followed the original documentary, I’m sure most of you are already sick of hearing about this. Hey, I got in for free, and how can I brag to as many people as possible about how connected I am besides writing a review?

Do the Z-boys need another ego stroke? What’s the point in making a dramatized version of a documentary that you already made? Money. Go see this movie because Stacy Peralta needs your money. Actually jay Adams has a cameo where he appears buying beer from the kid playing himself. We can all hope and assume Jay made a little bit of scratch off the film. A lot of people can BS an reminisce about how they were the shit back in the day, but if you are Stacy Peralta, and you and your friends actually were the shit, then you can make a movie about it.

It may not be a lot to brag about, but Lords of Dogtown is without a doubt the best of the dramatized movies featuring skateboarding as the central vehicle. LOD’s relatively few corny moments can mostly be blamed on the colloquialisms of the era. The guy that plays TA (Victor Rasuk) is pretty over the top sometimes, but he basically is doing a good job of acting like Tony, especially if you’ve ever seen any of the historical footage where TA is talking instead of skating. Emile Hirsch seems believable as a young Jay Adams, at least as much as he can to someone like myself who has never met him. John Robinson as Peralta (who knew he had confidence problems?) has got the hair and nice guy down pat. Like TA says, “So straight he doesn’t cast a shadow”. The three of these guys supposedly had little to no skateboarding time, and they either do a good job of representing the style and moves, or the stunt doubles are lot more seamless than they were in Thrashin.

The first part of the movie deals with introducing the characters and trying build up their relationship. It’s kind of rough in the beginning, starting with the kind of cheesy credits, and the overall feel that sometimes approaches a VH1 dramatization. Stacy wrote the screenplay, and he and the director took a few liberties with skateboarding of the time. I’ve never seen so many “accidental” perfect launch ramps in the street since an episode of ChiPs, especially considering the equipment that they had to navigate the terrain on. There’s a scene with Jay Adams where it damn near looks like he ollies onto a couch. There are some continuity problems too. One disappointing omission is the legendary severe localism at the pier that is hinted at but not visualized.

Heath Ledger pretty much steals the show every time he’s on screen portraying legendary scenester Skip Engblom. It’s really one of the highlights of the movie. The way Skip’s character is portrayed makes him look like a total dick from a skateboarder’s point of view. Hassling team riders about mandatory team practices and other such rules and nonsense seems contradictory to the reason most kids get into skateboarding in the first place. It’s not surprising that everyone bailed on him when better opportunities were made apparent. He does come off more sympathetically as the movie progresses. He’s human after all, and was probably exaggerated for movie purposes. Speaking of riveting, Rebecca De Mornay is the hottest skeezy middle aged freaky lady to ever appear on the screen1, not counting all those MILF web sites (that I’ve only heard about). She plays Jay’s mom, and while I’m flirting with a beat down, Alva’s sister is hot! In the film, I mean. Since there are a lot of real characters in the film, you can bet there will be some hackles raised in the industry, although most of them are no longer players. Poor old Ty Page and Russ Howell take another beating in the public eye. Man those Dogtown guys can hold a grudge. Then there’s Sid, who in the documentary and in print is usually referred to as “some rich kid who was dying, so his dad let us drain his pool and skate it every day for a couple of months.” LOD portrays him in an endearing fashion, although who knows if it has any basis in reality since before the movie his public descriptions weren’t that affectionate or detailed. His character is handled in a very clumsy cartoon like way, but that may be due to the actor’s former recurring role on Will And Grace.

As LOD progresses, you start to get a feel for the human aspect of the characters and the relationship of their real life counterparts. I’m sure a lot of the events were sensationalized or combined for the sake of the movie. It’s one thing to hear how Jay had problems at home, never really took the money part of skateboarding seriously, and eventually became more “troubled,” but it’s more helpful to see an approximation of iton the screen. We can assume it’s somewhat based in reality since the principals are all still alive and involved in the film. It’s apparent form both Dogtown movies that Peralta either has a hard on for Jay Adams or he suffers from some survivor’s’ guilt syndrome. Now if someone could only make a movie dramatizing why Steve Olson hates Peralta.

Overall, the Lords of Dogtown is enjoyable light drama that doesn’t necessarily need the skateboarding angle to appeal to the general public. The credits gloss over Jay’s trouble with the law and Alva’s ups and downs business-wise in the “Where are they now” part of the movie. Look for many cameo appearances by the actual characters in the movie, and the Bones Brigade extras, including an overly surreal Tony Hawk appearance that threatens to derail the drama. There are a handful of genuinely funny outbursts of laughter, and the skateboarding parts are mostly accurate and not embarrassing, save for the fashions. You could wait for video, but it will also be fun to watch with your crew, even more so if you sneak a bottle in and tip your hat to the original spirit of Dogtown.

Who am I kidding? I’m not connected. All I had to do to get into the preview was know someone who sent a postcard into our local alt newspaper, responding to the printed notice. And I’d have to be rich too if I had any hope of getting those guys to hang out with me. To which I reply, you should have got the Boogie Nights guy to direct it.

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