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Lords of Dogtown
2005 - PG-13 - 107 Mins.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Producer: John Linson
Written By: Stacy Peralta
Starring: John Robinson, Emile Hirsch, Rebecca De Mornay, Heath Ledger
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site: www.sonypictures.com/movies/lordsofdogtown/index.html
   
Two years after making her directorial debut with the gritty and gut-wrenching tale of unguided adolescence 'Thirteen', Catherine Hardwicke returns with the true story of a group of skateboarders who popularized the sport in the 70's. Previously told in the documentary 'Dogtown and the Z-Boys', 'Lords of Dogtown' can't help but pale in comparison to the infinitely more informative picture which preceded it. The film retains the gritty and oftentimes depressing feel of Hardwicke's previous outing but can't overcome a screenplay which quickly devolves into cliche.

Love thyself. That is a mandate by which people are told to follow as a way of fostering self-esteem. Well, the characters in 'Lords of Dogtown' follow it to the extreme. They talk incessantly about how they are born to achieve greatness and how cool they are because of the limited fame they accrue through their 2-wheel feats. This attitude of overzealous self-confidence permeates the gritty film, even when it briefly ventures into the personal troubles of the skaters. The characters, as a result of said over-confidence, become unlikeable rather quickly.

Although the film boasts an effective look supplied by Hardwicke and cinematographer Elliot Davis that fits the film's mood and subject perfectly along with a soundtrack reflective of the era, the aforestated self-centered nature of the characters drags the film down. Naturally, the actors suffer from the scattershot screenplay which crafts such personalities. The likes of Emile Hirsch ('The Girl Next Door'), and Heath Ledger ('The Order') among others, do their personal bests to inject something akin to full-fledged and otherwise well-roundedness into their respective on-screen characters but the script leaves them at the starting gate.

Also not helping matters is the cliche fest that the film becomes as it proceeds to its ever-more predictable finale. From the disapproving mother to jealousy and coming-of-age, themes as old as time are trotted out one-by-one as 'Lords of Dogtown' heads towards its conclusion. Whats worse, the cliches aren't livened up with any sort of twist making it possible for anyone who has seen a film in their lifetimes to write the ending themselves way before it actually occurs. One doesn't ask much of such a film (especially considering the spotty record of films surrounding skateboarding. Witness last year's 'Grind' for all the proof one needs to know how the sport has been given the short shrift by Hollywood). However, it would be nice if the filmmakers could have devised something more creative and less saccharine for the film's denouement. I know the film is based on truth but this is where some creative license, had it been taken, would have improved the film immensely.

Where does that leave us? Well, it pretty much makes 'Lords of Dogtown' a film that can only be truly appreciated not to mention enjoyed by die-hard skaters while the rest of us will be left wondering why we should care about such an unappealing group of young people.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

 
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