Scorpion Releasing // 1978 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // July 30th, 2010
The movie that defies gravity!
Talent agent Manny Bloom (Allen Garfield, Nashville) is in a hole so deep that down looks up. In debt so heavy he can barely see straight, he's in danger of getting his thumbs broke by angry creditors and hauled off to jail by his angry ex-wife. Then one day, a kid on a skateboard executes a jump over his beat-up Datsun, and Manny is inspired. Skateboarding is the new "in" thing, so he decides to organize a team of 'boarders, taking them around to competitions. He gathers up a few kids, christens them the L.A. Wheels, buys a shoddy old bus, and they're on their way.
Needless to say, the road to fame and fortune is paved with potholes, not the least of which being that these kids who are used to 'boarding for fun bristle at the discipline Manny imposes. Plus, with the youngest being 10, the oldest 18, and the others somewhere in the middle, growing pains are constantly in evidence.
Manny's gruff hysteria can be a little hard to take. He's really pushing the kids, but unbeknownst to them, he has a good reason: if he doesn't come up with $10,000 pronto, he's due for a serious beating from the goons of an angry loanshark. Will a Big Skateboard Championship with a $20,000 prize cure all ills? Or should Manny start searching around for a good knee cap doctor?
I was expecting Skateboard (a.k.a. Skateboard: The Movie) to bear a cinematic kinship to one-titled youth pics like Rappin' and Breakin' (if they'd called it Boardin', I probably wouldn't have bothered to watch), or other simple-minded exercises in good guy/bad guy/cool guy storytelling with a popular fad as a hook. While it's far from a revelation, Skateboard is actually a cut above other, similar genre films. Produced by Dick Wolf (Law and Order), it's disposable drive-in fare, but not without its charms.
While Skateboard doesn't bring anything new to the overcrowded "grumpy guy works with kids" table, it gets points for not making the kids cute monsters. For the most part, they're a fairly nondescript lot, except when they get on their boards, when they're transformed into graceful, determined athletes. Most of the kids are played by skateboarders like Steve Monahan, Richard Van der Wyk, and original Z-Boy Tony Alva. Budding teen idol Leif Garrett is also a member of the L.A. Wheels, but he's not the focus of the film, and his part is comparatively small.
Most of the acting is left to Garfield and Kathleen Lloyd, who comes aboard as the team's nurse after one of the kids crashes while trying to jump some barrels. Garfield, wisely, doesn't go the big-lug-with-a-heart-of-gold route. He's stressed and is hard on the kids, and there's some (easily resolved, for the most part) conflict as to whether the team will stay together. Lloyd is very good as the big sister/mother figure. Refreshingly, she and Garfield don't embark on a romantic subplot.
The real star, of course, is the skateboarding, and the film features some really well shot scenes of 'boarders doing their thing -- in empty pools, up and down steep ramps, in large pipes, through obstacle courses, and so on. The skateboarding scenes are really outstanding, and if you're a fan, the film's worth catching for these sequences alone.
It's also pretty family friendly. One of the kids drinks -- and gets lectured for it -- and has (mostly offscreen) sex with one of the girls, and he also gives Manny the finger in a quickly snippet shot, but that's it for bad behavior. No one curses. The girls don't walk around naked. There's no drug use or violence, and the lessons about team work and doing the best job you can are front and center.
Scorpion's come up with a very nice package for this mostly forgotten drive-in number. While the picture is far from pristine, it's pretty clear for the most part. Colors are a bit dull, and there's the occasional nick and scratch, but it's overall acceptable. The Dolby mono track is OK, though here and there, dialogue gets lost.
For supplements, we get a lot of stuff with Tony Alva and Director George Gage, and it's all pretty good. Alva and Gage do a chatty, entertaining commentary, each gets a separate video interview, and they are interviewed together. We also get the film's trailer. This is another case where the supplements really enhance the film and make it worth seeking out.
Far more charming than you'd expect, Skateboard is a pleasant and fun trip back to the '70s. Well produced with some excellent skateboard footage, it's at least worth a rental.
Review content copyright © 2010 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated PG