Lords of Dogtown
Lords of Dogtown is a difficult film to review. It’s difficult because I’m not quite sure what it was. Was it a skate film? Was it supposed to have a plot? I think the answer to both these questions is yes, when the affirmative should have only been for the latter.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (writer and director of the film Thirteen), this film doesn’t know where it’s going half the time. The shots are often beautiful, filmed in a grainy style to show what apparently used to be referred to as ‘Dogtown,’ now commonly known as Venice Beach. We follow the true story of a bunch of skaters in the 70s that make up the ‘Z-Team,’ and revolutionize the sport, becoming west coast celebrities. Ultimately, the film ends up being about how fame ruined the lives and friendships they had before all the glory. But Hardwicke sure takes her sweet time getting to this point.
The first half of the film (in it’s entirety, the film runs about 90 minutes) is mostly just the group of boys skating around Venice, smoking, joking, toking–not taking authority too seriously (the almighty MPAA has thankfully warned us that it received it’s PG-13 rating in part for ‘reckless behavior - involving teens’). Not being a skater myself, or knowing much about the sport (besides enough to recognize Tony Hawk in his little cameo), I was vastly bored by the seemingly unending ollies, and….well, that’s the only trick name I know. But during the short intervals where the plot was the focus, I was pulled in by the terrific cast and the intriguing true-life drama. Heath Ledger is to Lords of Dogtown what Johnny Depp is to Pirates of the Caribbean. His acting was phenomenal and he was barely even recognizable (see if you can spot him in the trailer). I would put this performance above Brokeback Mountain. The Cast also starred Emile Hersh (Into the Wild), John Robinson (Thirteen, Transformers) and a slew of other young, talented actors.
If you’re into skating, I’m guessing you’ll like this film much more than I did. But even with it’s shortfalls, I had a good time once Hardwicke gained control and let the story tell itself.
Rated PG-13 for drug and alcohol content, sexuality, violence, language and reckless behavior – all involving teens.