Reviewed by: Bob Rossiter
|Featuring||Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Johnny Knoxville, Victor Rasuk|
|Producer||John Linson, David Fincher, Art Linson|
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “In the 1970s, a group of teenage surfers from a tough neighborhood known as “Dogtown” in Venice, CA pioneered a revolutionary new style of skateboarding. Riding the waves at the Pacific Ocean pier, the Z-Boys, known for their aggressive style and hard street attitude, combined the death-defying moves of surfing with the art of skateboarding and became overnight sensations and local legends. With empty pools as their canvas, the Z-boys paved the way to what is now referred to as “extreme sports,” and created a lifestyle that spread infectiously to become a worldwide counterculture phenomenon. But all of this fame would take its toll on the friendships that they thought would last a lifetime as the sport that started out as an afternoon hobby turned into big business.”
They came from nothing to change everything.
While “The Lords of Dogtown” contains a lot of skateboarding, it is primarily a movie about relationships. What can happen when a group of teenagers, who have nothing, find fame and fortune overnight? How does their attitude toward family, friends and even themselves change in the process?
The story revolves around the lives of Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, Jay Adams and another friend named Sid. These teens were a part of the skateboard team known as the Z-boys. They took this name because the Zephyr Surf Shop owned by Skip sponsored them.
The boys were all from low-income families. Skip organized them into a team and used their success to promote his own business. He tried to mentor them, but he didn’t have his act together any better. His constant drunkenness and bad attitude eventually alienated him from the teens. Sid wasn’t much of a skater because of a physical problem with his equilibrium, but as a friend, he was always there. The others made fun of his difficulties on occasion, not realizing his obstacles could be signs of a more serious problem.
Jay had his own set of problems. He didn’t have a father in the home, and his mother was mentally unstable from taking so many illegal drugs. At times, he appeared to be more responsible than she was. Tony’s family was so poor that he jumped at the first opportunity to make “big money.” Stacy was the one boy that had regular employment. He was dedicated to his job and generally acted responsibly. This cost him a place on the Z-boy team at first, but he later proved his abilities and joined the others.
This isn’t a family film by any means, but there are some positive moments. In spite of the disagreements they get into, all four boys maintain a strong bond of relationship. Sid’s greatest contribution of friendship occurs at the end of the movie. Sorry, no spoilers. Jay shows commitment to his mother by trying to provide for her financially in a way she can’t do for herself. In the end, however, both Jay and Skip are examples of how not to live your life. Jay gets involved with gangs and the drug culture, while Skip finds it impossible to give up alcohol. They end up paying a price for their bad choices.
At times, the Z-boys would skate down the street smashing windows or other peoples’ property. The boys would also break into peoples’ homes to use their pools as their own skate park, and talk about stealing from the owners. They stole from a gas station and a convenience store. The movie also contradicted its own view on drug use. While Jay made a bad decision about getting involved with drugs, marijuana use is encouraged.
Profanity and sexual immorality are two more vices that seem to be a large part of this culture. There are about 50 mostly moderate profanities, including a half dozen uses of the Lord’s name in vain. Sex is even more prevalent. It would take a whole booklet to detail the implied sex, skimpy clothing and sexually explicit language in this movie, so I will just mention a few. Tony and his teenage sister have different beds, but still share the same small bedroom. They both bring a sex partner into the room. The girls undress to their underwear and sex is implied. Preparing to have sex, Sid unzips a girl’s blouse revealing her bra. In another scene, a man who is either a transvestite or cross-dresser makes a pass at Tony.
While the picture of the skateboard culture may be accurate, it’s unfortunate they didn’t attempt to help those who felt alienated and depressed. The film portrayed many in this society as neglected. If they could only see that God Himself wants to be the father, the mother or the friend they are missing. That kind of hope would help produce the greatest skateboarders the world has ever known.
This is definitely not a movie for children or even teens. The PG-13 rating should be taken seriously, and my belief is that it comes close to an R rating.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/nudity: Heavy
NOTE: The above review is of the PG-13 theatrical release version of “Lords of Dogtown.” The DVD version of this film is longer and unrated.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.