According to some reports, Fred Durst almost directed this thing, and if I ever wind up supporting anything Fred Durst does, I’ll kill myself. Having said that, Lords of Dogtown is a fond look back at the California skateboarding explosion in the late ‘70s. Since, like everything else, timing is everything, this film was largely neglected in a lot of circles, because it came out shortly after the outstanding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys, which was written and directed by Stacy Peral…a, who was one of the members of the legendary Zephyr skating team. Peralta is one of the writers of Lords of Dogtown, which is a more dramatic look at the characters of the era.
Set in 1975 California, the film follows Peralta, played by John Robinson (Elephant), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk, Raising Victor Vargas) and Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch, The Girl Next Door). They surf at the pier and occasionally bump into the surf shop owner Skip (Heath Ledger, A Knight’s Tale). When a friend of Skip’s comes into the shop with some new wheels for his skateboards, Skip decides to let the kids have them, and discovers what they can do with this new technology. The Z-Boys find themselves becoming the center of attention, and while some, like Jay, want to earn what they can to help get his mother (Rebecca DeMornay) out of a substandard life, others, like Tony, want to enjoy the ride for as long as possible.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), the film features a lot of imaginary camera shots designed to put the viewer in the middle of the bowl with the skaters. Using handheld cameras following the skaters, and lipstick sized cameras in other areas, the film is full of activity. Like other films that have showcased the sudden fame of its protagonists, there’s also the downfall too. The boys branch out to other skating teams and sponsors, all looking for the next payday. The problem is that it’s not shown with as much effectiveness as other films. The story is OK, and a couple of the performances are pretty good (Hardwicke’s technical style is inspired and excellent), but after seeing the aforementioned documentary, Lords of Dogtown appears to be a big screen version that lacks a lot of pull for the viewer.
With a movie that is absolutely soaked in ‘70s era arena rock songs, you’d expect the audio tracks to sound excellent, and Lords of Dogtown does that. There’s a lot of surround effects from the front speakers to the rear, everything environmental sounds fantastic (starting with the waves hitting the beach early on in the film), and it enhances the viewing experience.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film’s cut scenes are seamlessly integrated into the film without interruption, and the film’s various source materials and style choices are reproduced very well too. There’s a lot of active camera movement through the film to give the viewer the idea that they are a part of something special.
The bonus material on the disc doesn’t have too much substance, but the amount of extras and the intent put into them make up for that. There are two commentaries on the disc, the first with Hardwicke, Rasuk, Robinson and Hirsch, and the second is with the real Peralta and Alva. With so many actors in it, you’d expect some fun stories to be told, and there is some humor on it, but it seems like everyone just got up, and they enjoy pointing out things in the film that are pretty trivial. Peralta and Alva’s track is better because of the reminiscing that the two share, but overall, there isn’t too much information on this that the documentary hasn’t covered. However, in another part of the DVD, Hardwicke explains the cameos of some of the real Z-Boys, and the clips follow too, and cover about 30 minutes. There’s a 30 minute making of on the film too, discussing the real events and people, and has a lot of interview footage with Peralta, who describes the beach as “The Endless Summer meets Mean Streets.” It’s a nice look at the film, and apparently not complete, because there are several more featurettes included on various aspects of the film as well. On top of that material, there are also about 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes that are OK. Next is a pretty bland gag reel, and a storyboard comparison that intercuts the storyboards with finished footage, which is nice, but I always prefer the side by side comparison on things like that. There are some previews and a music video that complete the DVD.
A better film than I had expected; but the previous history of the people and location, and Peralta’s documentary, severely diminish any dramatic impact the film could have had. It’s a nice companion to Dogtown and Z-Boys, but doesn’t stand on its own merits.
Special Features List
- Director and Cast Commentary
- Original Z-Boy Commentary
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Making Of Featurette
- Director’s Introduction
- Storyboard Comparison
- Cameo Featurettes
- Music Video