Lords of Dogtown
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Back in the ‘80s, when the skateboarding craze hit the Midwest, I found myself in the middle of it—not because I hit the half-pipes myself (though I did sprain my wrist in a skateboarding accident in fifth grade), but because my brother was The Coolest Guy in Town, the manager of the local skate-and-surf shop. Since I was the little sister of The Coolest Guy in Town, I knew all about skateboarding—so this limited-run film promised to be a blast from the past for me.

Lords of Dogtown tells the somewhat fictionalized story of three kids from Venice, California (aka Dogtown) who revolutionized skateboarding. Back in the mid-‘70s, Stacy Peralta (John Robinson), Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), and Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) were young surfers, trying to convince the Big Guys to let them surf. When new advances (in the form of new, high-tech wheels) made skateboarding more like surfing, Skip Engblom (a totally unrecognizable Heath Ledger), owner of Zephyr surfboards, decided to get in at the ground floor and start his own skate team to promote his boards. With his new skaters (known as the Z-Boys), who blew away the competition, making skateboarding look more like surfing, Skip’s team was a huge success. But as the Z-Boys became more and more famous, Skip found that he could no longer keep them on his team. Peralta, Adams, and Alva, who had been the best of friends, became bitter rivals—for trophies, sponsors, endorsement deals, and magazine covers.

Written by Stacy Peralta (who went on to start his own skate team, which began the career of skaters like Tony Hawk), Lords of Dogtown is a captivating movie for skateboarding enthusiasts. Those who know the names will be interested by the story—and there’s plenty of frantic skateboarding action to keep things exciting. For others, though, this won’t be the most interesting of films. While it’s fictionalized, it still feels like a mix between a documentary and one of those skateboarding videos that my brother used to bring home from the shop. The actual story is weak, and viewers never really get to know the characters. Unless you’re really into skateboarding, you’ll probably want to pass.

If you’re looking for the real story of the Z-Boys, check out Peralta’s 2001 documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys. But you can also find a few more details on the Lords of Dogtown DVD, too, that will help fill in more of the story. If you can handle the annoying California-girl commentary from director Catherine Hardwicke, I recommend checking out the feature on the film’s cameos—to see the real-life characters, 30 years later.

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