A lot of the draw of "Lords of Dogtown" was the potential for great music. I knew the situation was going to be dicey if the opening music was something in the vein of "Last Resort" by Papa Roach, or some other travesty that came out of the skating counterculture of the late '90s. Luckily for audiences - and the filmmakers - the music used came from the appropriate era and successfully captured the mentality of the seedlings of the skating revolution in the 1970s with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
In addition to having appropriate music, the story was also an accurate adaptation of the events that sparked the beginning of skateboarding as it is today. The Zephyr Boys (Z-Boys) were a group of misfit surfers with no real life goals other than riding waves. With the invention of the urethane wheel for skateboards came potential for them to ride "concrete waves" without having to wait for the tide.
With unprecedented skill and innovation, the Z-Boys took something that was seen as a toy and turned it into the tool of a sport. Each took his own path, but ultimately they changed the way the world saw skateboarding.
Perhaps the two most famous Z-Boys were Tony Alva (played by Victor Rasuk) and Stacy Peralta (played by John Robinson). These boys are given the most credit for starting the movement and have the most on-screen time. But the person who is credited within the Z-boys as being the most influential is Jay Adams (played by Emile Hirsch). All of these main characters were intriguing and played well by the young actors.
The film was actually written by one of the Z-Boys, Stacy Peralta, so very few changes were made to the story. It's probable that a few liberties were taken here and there to make the story better for Hollywood, but it's a narrative film, not a documentary. (There is, however, an award-winning documentary about the Z-Boys called "Dogtown and Z-Boys," which beautifully chronicles and successfully captures the culture of that time, so go rent it.)
Though "Lords of Dogtown" is a good attempt, the story is a bit flat, and the relationship between the audience and the boys is not immediately nurtured. But by the end of the film, the connection is definitely palpable because of the draw the young boys bring, both as characters and as young actors.
The boys' acting is neither here nor there, but they're cute enough. It's obvious that they tried, and that's good enough for most of the audience, which is comprised of young teenage girls or equally young teenage boys.
The outstanding achievement award goe to Heath Ledger for his portrayal of Skip Engblom, the surfboard shop owner. Really entertaining, funny and without giving too much away, ultimately tragic. Cheers mate!
Peralta's writing definitely makes the film feel as if a high school boy wrote it, which is sad when you really think about it. But then you realize how much money he's going to make, and the cloud of sadness just lifts away. And then you realize how many times they say, "Bro" in the film, and the cloud of sadness comes right back.
"Lords of Dogtown" is a movie worth seeing. It's an important moment in the skateboarding culture's history and the fact that boys (and one girl) so young started something so huge is a feat worth making a movie about. Plus, the soundtrack is totally killer, bro.