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Lords of Dogtown

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jan
Lords of Dogtown

from Film Forum, 06/09/05

In 1975, along Santa Monica's popular Venice Beach, skateboarding suddenly became a phenomenon that would conquer the world—at least the world of thrill-seeking teenagers. Stacy Peralta's 2002 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys told the story, and Catherine Hardwicke's Lords of Dogtown tells it again. Hardwicke, who directed Thirteen, is no stranger to stories of rebellious teens. But one has to ask: If audiences just watched a documentary with the real skateboarding stars and actual footage of the original events, why do we need a dramatic re-creation with Hollywood stars and not-so-amazing demonstrations of skateboard stunts?

The film, which is earning praise for stars Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, John Robinson, and Heath Ledger as the stoned, dazed, confused, and reckless innovators, does not much impress its religious press critics.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says this "vapid film … never rises above a conventional study of adolescent rebelliousness, with its more interesting elements—the characters' broken home lives, the corrosive allure of fame and money—receiving shallow treatment. If you are interested in this subject, you'd be much better off skateboarding over to the video store and renting Peralta's documentary."

Tom Neven (Plugged In) writes, "Lords of Dogtown neatly captures a precise moment in American culture that reverberates to this day. That's not praise. That's a problem."

Dogtown has divided mainstream critics between those who prefer the documentary and those who think that Hardwicke's version is worth seeing. A.O. Scott (New York Times) calls the film "a blast."