Picks and Pans Review: Lords of Dogtown

updated 06/13/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/13/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson

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This story of young skateboard rebels in L.A. already rolled through four years ago as an excellent documentary called Dogtown and Z-Boys. Directed by Stacy Peralta, himself a former skateboarder and one of the film's subjects, Z-Boys gave off the cool phosphorus glow of an entire subculture brought back into the light. In the 1970s, the fringes of the California surfing community spawned a breed of punk skateboarders obsessed with creating new dares in the empty pools of L.A. Now Peralta has written a slightly fictionalized version, and it's directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who made the tight, gritty Thirteen. Okay, but why? Hardwicke knows how to re-create this particular atmosphere, sunny yet dank, and the kids are good—the intensely blond Robinson, as young Peralta, looks like a bleached Chris Klein. Ledger plays the surf-shop guru who inspired the skateboarders as a zonked, desiccated charmer. (Think Mick Jagger or even Andy Warhol as a beachcomber.) But this movie, in the end, is just a sentimental tale of kids growing up and apart. It wimps out.

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