Written by: Stacy Peralta and Craig Stecyk
Directed by: Stacy Peralta
Narrated by: Sean Penn
- Running audio commentary by writer/director Peralta and editor Paul Crowder
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
Released by: Sony Pictures
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Rent it.
Skateboarding was having its second growth spurt after being consigned to the fad trash pile along with hula-hoops and flagpole sitting. With the introduction of polyurethane wheels, the improved speed and performance gave the sport a much-needed shot in the arm. The peak was the Del Mar Nationals in California in 1975, the first national competition held in a decade. At the Nationals was the Zephyr Skate Team. Their skating style was aggressive, unrestrained, and unorthodox. Their attitude was in your face and sure of themselves and their skills. Their story is the focus of Dogtown and Z-Boys.
[ad#longpost]With archival footage, photographs, and home movies, director Peralta first gives us a brief history of skateboarding and Dogtown (an unofficial zone incorporating Santa Monica and Venice Beach), both popular in the 60s, but in decline by the early 70s. This asphalt jungle was perfect for this tribe of skateboarders. The sport took on a third dimension with the thousands of empty swimming pools available during a drought. Committing many acts of trespassing, they took skateboarding vertical. Mainly to impress their friends, they developed tricks that are mainstays of the sport today. With the success at Del Mar and a series of Hunter Thompsonesque articles by Craig Stecyk with pictures that captured the freewheeling lifestyle, the team went their separate ways to various levels of success. Present-day interviews have the team looking back nostalgically at the impact they made on skateboard and its culture.
What you’re looking for will effect how much you like the film. If you’re looking for an objective, serious Ken Burns-type profile or a ‘Behind The Music’ style tale of drugs, sex, and rock and roll, you’re not going to find it. The director, Stacy Peralta, is one of the Z-Boys and has been heavily involved in the skating industry. While he does minimize his own involvement and the impression that ‘they lived happily ever after’, there is a definite positive slant to this piece. But because Peralta is friends with these guys, he does give us an insider view. The present day interviews feel more relaxed and less like interviews than two friends shooting the shit. The film also features a great deal of MTV-style editing with jagged movements and busy graphics. This can be a little annoying at times, but it does add to the general theme of energy and motion in the film and helps enlivens sections when all they can show are still photos. Contrasting this is Sean Penn’s narration. If he were any more laid back, he’d be asleep. He’s not distracting, but his lack of energy does cause the movie to drag a little.
The commentary does offer some insight into the making of the film. Peralta and Crowder talk how they didn’t want the traditional documentary. They included the energetic camera edits and effects, the interviews that fast-forward over boring bits, and even Sean Penn blowing a line in his narration. These guys avoided stuffy at all costs. They also talk a lot of the music they picked and how they avoided the traditional classics of the 70s era and how selection of certain songs for certain sections were pure serendipity. They put a great deal of emphasis on the music and deservedly so. Having the editor on the commentary gives a useful insight into how parts of the movie are cut and placed. How this is done can effect the mood and pacing of the film. And from the commentary, you can tell that Peralta and Chowder have a good working relationship. Unfortunately, Peralta spends too much time telling us who is who on the film and reminiscing about his Dogtown days. This information should have been included on a separate ‘making of’ featurette.
Another feature are several sections of ‘raw’ footage–home movies made at the time that are unedited. When you get past the dated look and the dated moves, you can see these kids expending tons of energy making the coolest moves possible. We also get several deleted scenes where several of the Z-Boys are featured skating in the here and now. While some might see this as middle-aged men clinging to their youth, I think it’s nice to see guys who are still passionate about the sport they love. Essentially, this documentary is about a time when a sport was without corporate sponsorship, screaming sports dads, and tons of safety regulations and was simply a bunch of friends having a good time pushing the envelope. Even it you’re not interested in skating, rent Dogtown and Z-Boys.