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With: Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, Johnny Knoxville, Michael Angarano, Eddie Cahill, Ned Bellamy, Nikki Reed, Rebecca De Mornay, Elden Henson, Sofia Vergara, America Ferrera, Joel McHale, William Mapother, Chelsea Hobbs, Reef Karim, Paulette Ivory, Vincent Laresca, Shea Whigham
Written by: Stacy Peralta
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug and alcohol content, sexuality, violence, language and reckless behavior - all involving teens
Running Time: 105
Date: 03/18/2013
IMDB

Lords of Dogtown (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Fake 'Dogtown' Dogged by Much Cooler Documentary

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Lords of Dogtown is a fictionalized account of the birth of modern skateboarding that doesn't have half the spontaneity and maverick spirit of the vivid, kinetic, crowd-pleasing documentary that inspired it.

2002's Dogtown and Z-Boys (now available in an excellent DVD) was an adrenaline-rush history of the Zephyr Skateboarding Team, a daredevil band of teenage surf bums who were the first to take wave-riding moves to the streets and empty swimming pools of drought-stricken Santa Monica in the early 1970s.

This handful of young turks (one of whom became the director of that film and the writer of this one) invented the board-gripping, back-scratching, wall-climbing style that launched the entire rebel culture of extreme sports -- but you wouldn't know it from "Lords of Dogtown," which concerns itself more with fabricated love triangles, unhappy home lives and rivalries that formed when fame came calling.

While the performances of the young cast members -- key Z-Boys are played by John Robinson from Elephant, Emile Hirsch from The Girl Next Door and Victor Rasuk from Raising Victor Vargas -- are multifaceted, they sometimes have the under-rehearsed feel of an bawdier after school special. Or maybe that's just the clumsy expository dialogue: "Hey, I think we should start a skateboard team, man," says one shirtless, long-haired dude to another. "There's money in this!"

Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) lends the movie a low-budget, guerilla-style authenticity that is at its most legit in occasionally creative skateboarding camerawork and wipeouts clearly not staged by stuntmen. The movie has a vivid sense of the boys' shoddy "Dogtown" neighborhood (exemplified by the collapsed ruins of the Pacific Ocean Park pier), of their initial loyalty (to each other and their manager, played by Heath Ledger with a half-stoned Val-Kilmer-as-Jim-Morrison bent), and of how the team fell apart (Johnny Knoxville is well-cast as a scummy corporate sponsor dangling endorsement deals in front of them).

But it takes Hardwicke half the movie and a couple slick skateboarding scenes shot with handheld cameras to build up the energy Lords of Dogtown needs to sustain interest -- and even then there's little sense of the larger context, the Z-boys influence and innovation.

To be fair, measuring up to the wild imagination of Dogtown and Z-Boys would be almost impossible for any fictional flick saddled with keeping track of a narrative plot. This one could have been much worse. But your movie dollar would be better spent renting the documentary, in which the home-movie footage of the real Z-Boys literally inventing half-pipe skateboarding before your eyes has 10 times the exhilaration of any scene from Lords of Dogtown.

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