Just when you thought publication bias was a thing of the past (ha ha) Entertainment Weekly goes ahead and gives Lords of Dogtown a suspicious looking A+, when just about everyone else thinks the film suffers from clichéd melodrama and "inept storytelling." So I did my research: according to Metacritic, out of over a total of 2109 reviews, Entertainment Weekly gave consistently higher scores a whopping 66 percent of the time. And we're not just talking a point here, a point there. In the case of Dogtown, they're a full 15 points ahead of the next best review: Rolling Stone's 75, based on "crazy-cool board action." (I did my own research on Rolling Stone. They give higher scores 57 percent of the time.)
Now that we know what we're dealing with, let's take a look at Lords of Dogtown.
First off, the film's gotten only average reviews, (which isn't surprising since it's a one-off of the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. Why fictionalize a snapshot in time when the real thing's been already put on 16mm, and you're working off a screenplay written by your predecessor's director (Stacy Peralta)? Because then you can cast some bad-ass kids to represent you in real life, so says the Village Voice. Peralta "paints his generation with kindly brushstrokes," brushstrokes that were absent in Z-Boys, and director Catherine Hardwicke (of Thirteen fame) rationalizes the Zephyr sell-out by hammering on the "hard-times" theme.
The Onion's A.V. Club agrees with the genius of the casting. Emile Hirsch, who plays Jay Adams, does so with some serious "feral virility," but they note that actual character development is in short supply.
Variety finds little satisfaction in the film as a documentary translation. Emotions ran high in Dogtown and Z-Boys - here it's little more than crazy P.O.V shots and some unconvincing ad hoc teen angst thrown in by the actors. The big bummer is, that improvisation doesn't quite work. Johnny Knoxville as kooky Topper Burks, on the other hand, is an entertaining distraction.
And gravitas, well, that's the word on the mind of Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter. California is robbed of it's sun, instead becoming a substitute Gotham where Wayne Manor is a skate park and the Batmobile rolls on polyurethane wheels. Physical prowess tops character depth.
The so-so reviews lead to an obvious conclusion: we've all seen Z-Boys, so why bother with fiction when you can have the real thing?