Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Sam Jones
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 129
Date: 04/05/2022

Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Skate Dope

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has appeared in documentaries before, but none as thorough, universal, or as deeply emotional as this, charting his exciting successes as well as his heartbreaking lows.

Documentary filmmaker Sam Jones tells the story of Tony Hawk, widely considered to be one of the greatest skateboarders of all time. Hawk turned pro at the age of 14, and threw his considerable energy into becoming the best he could. He soon surpassed his own heroes in rankings, and, in 1999, achieved the elusive "900" trick, which requires two-and-a-half full turns in the air, and landing face-forward. Fame and fortune followed, but there were also years of hardship and bad choices. A series of successful video game proved to be his comeback into the spotlight, but there were still demons for him to face.

For Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off, director Jones — who made the Wilco documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart as well as an episode of Ted Lasso — gains full access to Hawk himself, who seems ready and open to speaking candidly. He talks about his initial approach to competition, which quickly grew "methodical," as well as some of his personal choices at the height of fame ("I didn't like myself"). Jones also has access to Hawk's siblings, as well as skateboarding legends Stacy Peralta, Rodney Mullen, and Lance Mountain, all of whom seem uncensored and unguarded in their talk.

It helps that there's a wealth of documentation already available on Hawk, not only footage of his competitions, but also VHS skating videos, and dynamic magazine photographs, capturing gravity-defying moments hanging onto the top of the pool with one hand.

Yet Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off goes even farther, exploring the theme of age in athleticism. When does one stop? When does one's body force one to stop? Hawk is shown, at age 53, unable or unwilling to stop, practicing again again to nail that elusive "900." If the doc has one failing, it's that it lacks the underground, outsider energy of things like Dogtown & Z-Boys or Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, but its professionalism launches it an ollie past the rest of the competition.

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