The Next Reel • Season 11 • Series: Sports • Lords of Dogtown

Lords of Dogtown

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We continue our Sports series, in which we’re looking at four films about sports directed by women, with Catherine Hardwicke’s sophomore effort from 2005, ‘Lords of Dogtown.’ Is it more than a biopic? Can we identify with the protagonists? And how’s the skateboarding?

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“This wave breaks 24 hours a day every day.”

Dogtown and Z-Boys was a successful documentary when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, and did great for itself in its theatrical release afterward. That success spurred Stacy Peralta, the director of the film and one of the Z-boy skateboarders featured in the doc, to write a fictional telling of the story to be made as a feature film. That script went through several director’s hands – David Fincher and Fred Durst, specifically – before landing with Catherine Hardwicke. She had had great success a few years earlier with her debut film Thirteen (which we talked about on the show here). So how does this hold up as her sophomore effort? Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Sports series with Hardwicke’s 2005 film Lords of Dogtown.

We talk about skateboarding, biopics, and more as it relates to Lords of Dogtown.

We both recount our own beginnings with skateboards. Were we ever any good? No. But certainly they were foundational memories for us. That gives us a jumping off point to get into this film as we look at how our three central characters – Jay, Tony, and Stacy – find their connection to skateboarding in the 70s and turn it into a sensation.

How does the story work for us? It’s very much a biopic. That’s taken both for the bad and the good. It tells the story about interesting characters, but the beats feel very standard and expected. Is there something Hardwicke could’ve done or is this the best that could’ve come from Peralta’s script?

And that’s another point we discuss – can a biopic script written by one of the characters in the story every really be more than gentle with its story? This is a common complaint with many musician biopics these days because the featured figure(s) is (are) alive and producing, writing, or giving their blessing to the project. Can Peralta be objective? It doesn’t feel that way.

Still, the film is full of energy. That certainly feels like something Hardwicke brings to her early films. And the actors bring it as well. Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, Heath Ledger – so many faces in this film that warrant calling out. Because they do tremendous work throughout the film, whether their scripted parts shine or not.

In the end, though, it’s hard to separate what’s great in this film with the problems we have with the script. As strong as the performances and direction are, the story always feels a bit flat. But it’s still interesting and entertaining.

So check it out. It’s worth looking at, and you can check another off your bucket list. Then tune in to this week’s show! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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