Film — Lords of Dogtown (PG-13)


by Amy Diaz

Surf rats trade waves for wheels and reinvent the art of the skateboard in 1970s Venice (the scummy LA beach, not the sinking Italian city) in Lords of Dogtown, a fictionalized movie based roughly on the same kids shown in the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys.

Actually, one of the three main character in Lords, Stacy Peralta, is the author of this movie and the writer behind the Sean Penn-narrated documentary of four years ago. The story follows Stacy (played here by John Robinson), Tony Alva (Nikki Reed) and Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch). The boys were essentially a non-violent gang of surfers who sucked up to Skip (Heath Ledger), the stoned hippy who owned and lackadasially operated Zepher, a surfboard shop in Venice, a.k.a. Dogtown, a ghetto by the sea. Skip saw potential money in skateboarding, especially as California faced a drought and the Z-boys took to the empty swimming pools to practice their skateboard moves.

But Skip could only see so far and his business partners — men of even less get-up and go-anywhere-other-than-to-get-more-pot than Skip — were unwilling to help him truly capitalize on the cool of the newly crafted extreme skateboarding sport. Instead, skateboard-makers and other more corporate entities swooped in to pick up Stacy and Tony — the most successful of the two — and Jay, a boy who seems born to serve jail time and who acts hemmed in by the need to take care of his hippy mom (a very sunbaked Rebecca De Mornay).

The movie features a lot of cool, late-1970s burnout music and some amazingly bad scruffy fashions and a tangle of plot and acting that falls somewhere in between. Seldom is a fictionalized account of real people better than a documentary account of them and Lords of Dogtown is no different. It’s the what (skateboarding, growing celebrity out of nothing) that makes these boys interesting; the why (disinterested parents, a sense of belonging) is as soft and runny as a Creamsicle left too long in the Southern California sun.

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