So when I heard that there was to be a "fictionalized" re-telling of the "Dogtown" story, I was quite excited to check it out. And after seeing LORDS OF DOGTOWN, pretty much all I can say is that Stacy Peralta is a better documentarian than he is a screenwriter -- although, to his credit, he is a better storyteller than is Lords director Catherine Hardwicke.
Ms. Hardwicke gives us no real reason to care. The characters are, for the most part, broadly drawn and drably created. You don't feel any sort of "rooting interest" for any of these kids or way or another, which means that LORDS OF DOGTOWN must coast on a purely visceral level -- and the movie does precisely that -- with only a few fumbling dismounts.
Sure, the "board-cam" footage gets pretty old pretty fast, and there's only so many times you can watch a bunch of skate-slackers whizzzz through an empty swimming pool before you start to nod off just a bit -- but Hardwicke also brings an atmospheric gloom and enjoyably grungy haze to the material. The "Lords" aren't all that compelling, but their exploits are really cool to watch.
Eye-dazzle aside, the only thing saving the movie from total collapse is a handful of memorable performances: Emile Hirsch is, as usual, the anchor of whatever movie he's in, while Heath Ledger (doing his best Val Kilmer-as-Jim Morrison impression) is a lot of good, goofy fun as the perpetually zonked-out Engblom. Michael Angarano also does some excellent work creating a "doomed" character who (very easily) could have been drawn as a broad and obvious caricature.
The flick's watchable enough, but if you want an exhilarating look back at the exact same folks, I'd just stick with the documentary version. Yet still ... in a sub-genre that boasts films as horrifically abysmal as GLEAMING THE CUBE, THRASHIN', and GRIND, LORDS OF DOGTOWN feels like an absolute Oscar Winner.
Extra features are numerous and varied:
First up are two audio commentaries, the first one with director Catherine Hardwicke and actors John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, and Emile Hirsch, and the second with original Z-Boys Stacy Peralta & Tony Alva. Fans of the flick will want to focus on the first chat-track, while the hardcore boarding enthusiasts will most enjoy the "old man" track. Both make for solid additions to a fairly stacked special edition.
Moving on to the extra supplements, your first stop will be the 90-second Introduction by Director Catherine Hardwicke, in which the filmmaker briefly explains what was added back into this "unrated" edition.
The Making of LORDS OF DOGTOWN runs about 30 minutes and gives you several peeks behind the scenes. You'll be introduced to several of the original Z-Boys, most of whom seem resoundingly proud of the two movies their exploits inspired. It's a solid "making of" piece, but one gets the impression that all involved are perhaps patting each other on the backs just a bit too enthusiastically.
Dogtown Cameos is a "who's who" directory of veteran skateboarders that appear in the flick. Click on one of the 16 names and you'll get an intro by Ms. Hardwicke, followed by some interview segments, and then the movie footage of that specific Z-Boy. Pretty nifty, actually.
Click on "featurettes" and you'll find 7 mini-pieces that cover a wide array of LORD-related material:
Dogged on Dogtown (6:55) discusses on-set injuries.
Alternate $#%@! (2:38) is a hilarious bunch of alternate takes that were sent in for MPAA approval.
Bails & Spills (1:13) is a montage full of skinned knees, bonked heads, and bruised egos.
Extended Pool Session (1:43) is, well, it's extended footage from the pool session, obviously.
Of Course We Want a Skateboarding Bulldog! (2:22) is a longer look at Tyson, the skateboarding pooch.
The Making of Pacific Ocean Park (2:15) covers the creation of the movie's most memorable location, which was a combination of practical and digital techniques.
The Ocean Washes My Hair and Make-up Test (2:25) is a bunch of video footage used to test hair, make-up, wardrobe, and general funky attitude.
Also included are 9 deleted and extended scenes, a 4.5-minute gag reel, a handful of sotryboard comparisons, a music video for Rise Against's "Nervous Breakdown," and a few trailers for The Legend of Zorro, Fun with Dick and Jane, and Stealth.