Lords of Dogtown (2005)

lords of dogtown poster 2005 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Looks good, good cast

Story feels overblown in the drama

Movie Info

Movie Name: Lords of Dogtown

Studio: Art Lins0n Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Sport

Release Date(s): June 3, 2005

MPAA Rating: PG-13

lords of dogtown stacy peralta tony alva jay adams emil hirsh victor rasuk john robinson

The “Lords” rule the streets (and the swimming pools)

The abandoned Pacific Ocean Park Pier was the place to hang and spend the days surfing.  Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk), Stacy Peralta (John Robinson), and Jay Adams (Emil Hirsh) split their time between there and the Zephyr Surf Shop run by Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger).  When Sid gets a new shipment of polyurethane skateboard wheels, the boys realize they can take their love of surfing and apply it to skateboarding.  With more control and grip, the Zephyr team is going to turn the skateboarding world on its end.  With skill comes fame and with fame comes opportunity…and the bonds that hold the Z-Boys together might not be strong enough to survive.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, Lords of Dogtown is a skateboarding biopic drama.  The film was met with mixed reviews and a poor box office return.  The film has gained a cult following since its release.

lords of dogtown skateboard competition skip heath ledger

You’re ruining our skateboard competition

The 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys was a great, edgy documentary that explored the origins of the Southern California skate craze from the 1970s.  I can remember watching footage of kids skating in pools on Sesame Street or The Electric Company and thinking it was so cool.  I also remember playing with my cousin’s skateboard and thinking it was quite cool.  Unfortunately for Lords of Dogtown, the movie never lives up to (or surpasses) the original documentary.

The drama in the movie seems really forced and if you had seen the documentary, it is.  There were struggles, sell-out, and rivalries, but they were also about kids and friends having fun…granted most kids don’t have the type of money thrown at them that these kids did, but it seems like a real amplified version of true events.  The saga of Jay Adams is played up for tragedy, and Adams did struggle and has struggled, but the documentary take on his story has more introspection and reflection that you don’t get in the drama (particularly since it is “in the moment”).

The cast is quite amazing with a ton of up and comers.  Emile Hirsh has the meatiest role as Jay but it is rivaled by John Robinson who is the “responsible skater”.  Victor Rasuk gets the “fun skater” in Tony Alva who realizes skating is a money maker.  Heath Ledger’s Skip Engblom is kind of irritating, but from all reports, he nailed the character.  The movie features Rebecca De Mornay, William Mapother, Nikki Reed, Shea Whigham, and an early small role by Sofia Vergara.  The movie features cameos by Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams, Bai Ling, Alexis Arquette, Joel McHale, Charles Napier, Tony Hawk, Skip Engblom, and Jeremy Renner.

lords of dogtown stacy peralta tony hawk john robinson

Hmmmm…that astronaut looks…familiar

The movie does have some style, and the look of the movie in a vacuum isn’t that bad, but once again compared to the rawness of the documentary, it feels second place.  It isn’t necessarily fair to compare the two, but when the movie feels likely based off the documentary, it is a hard call.  The film does a good job of making the skating look real and convincing with the stars (something that isn’t always easy to do with sports films).

Lords of Dogtown has moments, but it never feels it quite peaks.  With the character of Sid (played by Michael Angarano) to tie the story together, it feels like the focus of the picture is all over the place…the filmmakers don’t want to make one of the boys “the star”, but by not having a set “star”, it feels a bit unbalanced.  If you like skateboard movies, you’ll probably like Lords of Dogtown, but stick with Dogtown and Z-Boys if you want a closer to reality story.

Related Links:

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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