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Laramie Movie Scope:
Lords of Dogtown

Surfing the first wave of skateboard mania

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 28, 2005 -- “Lords of Dogtown” is a movie based on the true story of a band of early day outlaw skateboarding champions from an oceanside California slum who took the sport by storm. Those who have seen the 1991 documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” (directed by Stacy Peralta, who wrote the screenplay for “Lords of Dogtown”) will be very familiar with the story shown in this film. “Lords of Dogtown” is simply a dramatized version of what was covered in the first film.

Stacy Peralta was one of those original surfers and skateboarders who hung out at the Zephyr surf shop in Venice, California. Peralta, as a youngster with long, blond hair, is portrayed in the film by John Robinson of “Elephant.” The young boys who hung out at the surf shop, many of them from broken homes, formed a kind of family. They surfed treacherous waves which swirled around piers at an abandoned amusement park and rode their skateboards on the streets through run-down neighborhoods. The movie details how this ragged band of kids became the top professional skateboarders in the world. Some of the kids became wealthy businessmen, filmmakers and professionals. Others ended up in prison or died young.

The movie is about the unfettered lifestyle of surfers coming into conflict with ruthless, soulless corporate consumerism. It is how fame and big money caused conflicts between old friends. It is about how some people were able to capitalize on their fame and fortune while others were swept to the sidelines. There are tales of personal tragedy and triumph, old friendships broken and friendships that endured. This film is about a small group of boys who found themselves in the middle of a whirlwind of change.

Joining John Robinson in the cast is Emile Hirsch of “The Emperor's Club” as fellow skateboarder Jay, Rebecca De Mornay of “Identity” and William Mapother of “The Grudge” as Jay's mother and father. Also appearing is Victor Rasuk of “Raising Victor Vargas” as skateboarder Tony Alva and Michael Angarano of “Seabiscuit” as skateboarder Sid. Heath Ledger of “The Brothers Grimm” plays Skip Engblom, co-owner of the Zephyr surf shop, and founder of the Zephyr skateboarding team. The actors are all convincing. This is perhaps Ledger's best performance ever as a surfer dude who can't quite make up his mind if he wants to be a businessman or a surfer who is pretending to run a business. The skateboarding and surfing scenes are impressive. Director Catherine Hardwicke of “Thirteen” grew up in the area where the Zephyr team lived and she gets the look and feel of the time and place just right.

Having seen “Dogtown and Z-Boys” before seeing this film gave me a definite feeling of deja vu, since this is the same story. We even see Craig Stecyk taking pictures of the Z-Boys (Pablo Schreiber plays Stecyk in the movie) in the film. Stecyk is the writer and photographer who first made the Z-Boys famous. His photos were used extensively in “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” Some of the original Z-Boys and others who appeared in the documentary also make cameo appearances in this film. This movie rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)