Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) / Documentary

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and some drug references
Running Time: 91 min.


Cast: Sean Penn (narrator), Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, Tony Hawk, Craig Stecyk
Director: Stacy Peralta
Screenplay: Stacy Peralta, Craig Stecyk
Review published January 19, 2002

With extreme sports all the rage today, it's important to pay respect to the cultural phenomenon by tracing it back to the roots.  Dogtown and Z-Boys is one such attempt, taking a look at what was considered a passing fad became the mainstream of today.

It's a documentary about a group of youth living in an area of Southern California called Dogtown, a poor surf community where there wasn't much else for many of the youth to do but to spend their time skateboarding.  Their styles were uncouth, implementing many of the techniques they used for surfing into the mix. 

When the drought hit California hard and swimming pools were drained to conserve water, they took things to an all new level, skating on the insides of empty swimming pools without the owner's knowledge or consent.  Soon, they became the darlings of the skateboarder culture, with commercialism following suit.

Even if you aren't into skateboarding, Dogtown and Z-Boys is a fascinating documentary, done in energetic style by former Z-Boy, Stacy Peralta (Riding Giants).  Sean Penn (I Am Sam, Sweet and Lowdown) narrates, and he's fine, although a bit lackadaisical for the flashiness of the visual style of the film.

Where the film's strength lies is in its quality footage of the Seventies, accentuating the footage with the music of the day.  Even stars of today, like Tony Hawk, pay homage to the trendsetters that came before, who are credited with inventing the half-pipe style that is the staple of modern skateboarding competitions.

Dogtown and Z-Boys will probably please almost anyone who even has a passing interest in skateboarding, or just well-crafted documentaries.  If you are a skater yourself, it's absolutely essential viewing.

-- Dramatized in the 2005 film, Lords of Dogtown, written by Stacy Peralta. 

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo