Most people don’t have enough happen in their life to make one documentary, but it turns out Stacy Peralta has enough to make at least two. Eleven years after he delved into his own adolescent history with “Dogtown And Z-Boys,” Peralta has made another skateboarding doc about the next phase of his career after the Z-boys. When Peralta founded his skateboard company Powell Peralta in the late ’70s, he brought together a bunch of unknown amateur skaters, cherry picked from around the USA — including Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Lance Mountain and Rodney Mullen, among others — and created a skate team called the Bones Brigade. In case you know less about skating than me, these guys pretty much all grew up to be the top competitors of the 1980s, and went on to inspire and shape the next generation of skaters and their culture — in short, they are skate legends.
Instead of the usual cautionary tales of too-much too-young burnouts that so many skateboarding docs end up telling, “Bones Brigade” instead follows the ultimate success story for Peralta and his kids. The Bones Brigade team did it all, from inventing revolutionary skate tricks to becoming skate video superstars and helping reinvigorate the sport when it seemed like another fad that might die away.
Not that it’s all sunshine and roses the whole time, as they all seem to have suffered from some inner turmoil that comes with a lot of success, combined with coming of age. It’s pretty sweet to see these grown-up kids talk about their teenage insecurities, family problems, responsibilities and how they all dealt with the fame and success. For the Bones Brigade team, it seems that Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk got a little more than the others, and as such they come off as some of the more screen-time worthy characters. Mountain struggled to come to terms with his own lack of ability as a skater amongst all these obviously gifted athletes, as well as his responsibilities as a young father. Mullen, on the other hand, grew up with his own difficult controlling father as well as a more withdrawn, introspective personality, and Hawk had a rivalry with fellow pro skater and former Bones Brigade member Christian Hosoi. One of the most interesting parts of the documentary is again Hawk and Mullen, the two that won the most competitions, talking about the pressures and the hollowness of competing and how they both managed to reignite their passion for the sport after burning out on competing.
With “Bones Brigade,” Peralta has managed to make a skateboarding documentary that while still being rambunctious is also at times more contemplative, often purely by nature of his now middle-aged interview subjects. Though this is clearly a personal project, Peralta does a great job at being relatively even handed with the ups and downs, and there are some hilarious quotes from Duane Peters and Tony Alva talking about the Bones Brigade squeaky clean image. Peralta also uses personal connection to his advantage by coaxing honest, insightful and often emotionally charged interviews out of some of his more difficult interview subjects.
One thing that has stood out in all of Peralta’s films is his ability to mix old footage with new, with a fun rhythmic editing style and a stellar soundtrack. “Bones Brigade” is no exception, as Peralta makes particularly good use of the early skate videos of the Bones Bridgade, like “Future Primitive” and “The Search for Animal Chin” with a bunch of garage punk tracks thrown in to evoke a previously dormant (at least in me) sense of ’80s nostalgia.
“Bones Brigade” is sure to be adored by skateboarding enthusiasts, and though it doesn’t quite measure up to “Dogtown And Z-Boys,” it’s still a fun and interesting film for anyone interested in pop culture, skateboarding fan or no. [B+]