Lords of Dogtown may as well have been helmed by its originally slated director Fred Durst, because from the spray-painted fonts of the film’s title sequence to the cock-of-the-walk swagger of its actors, Catherine Hardwicke’s follow-up to Thirteen epitomizes the selling-out of the punk movement. Based on a screenplay by skating legend Stacy Peralta and charting nearly every footnote more genuinely conveyed in the man’s own Dogtown and Z-Boys, the hagiographic Lords of Dogtown is best described as a poseur’s guide to skating culture; it’s also redundant. From the dewy-eyed transition from surfing to skating to the Dogtown boys’ appropriation into the popular mainstream (a cameo on Charlie’s Angels, an offer from the people at Slinky), the film and its rail-thin narrative should fail to excite anyone remotely fond of Peralta’s 2001 documentary—for everyone else it may reek of a co-opt board’s groupthink. The soundtrack of I-love-the-‘70s anthems is as calculated as the performances (as Skip Engblom, Heath Ledger takes a bite out of whatever scenery Gary Oldman has been chewing for the past 10 years, with an irritating Victor Rasuk nipping at the scraps) and the rise-and-fall of its three leads—angelic Stacy (Elephant‘s John Robinson), mama’s boy Jay (Emile Hirsch), and badass Tony (Rasuk)—nearly plays out as a subplot from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: After Tony takes an offer he can’t refuse, he begins to compete “with the sun for the center of the universe,” charging into a skating competition wearing skin-tight leather couture (all that’s missing is the bag of coke and the transsexual…no, wait, there she is!). Short on backstory and long on pervy shots of prepubescent physiques bumping and grinding against more than concrete pavements, the film transitions from the boringly aimless to the outright cartoonish and back again. Not only does the script gloss over everyone’s identity struggle, some perfectly good actors (mainly Rebecca De Mornay and Hirsh) go to waste. The editing is sleek and the cinematography is smooth, but Hardwicke takes everyone’s disaffection at face value (one could say she fails to even scratch the surface of the film’s multiethnic wasteland), directing nearly every sequence as if she were riding and threatening to fall off a skateboard. I haven’t come across a put-on this transparent since the all-attitude-zero-nuance of Avril Lavigne’s first album.
- Catherine Hardwicke
- Stacy Peralta
- Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, John Robinson, Michael Angarano, Nikki Reed, Rebecca De Mornay, William Mapother, Heath Ledger, Johnny Knoxville
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