‘Bones Brigade’ finds top skaters remembering the good old days

Poster courtesy of Bones Brigade
Poster courtesy of Bones Brigade

Director Stacy Peralta knows how to reignite energy. His Dogtown and Z-Boys still stands as one of the best sports documentaries of all time. His followups, including the stellar Riding Giants, gave evidence to the world that he was a serious documentarian with a serious love of archival footage.

His latest is Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, a love song to the glory days of Powell Peralta, a skateboarding company owned by Peralta and George Powell. These two skateboard legends helped finance and develop perhaps the greatest team in the history of the sport. The likes of Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen and Steve Caballero were all present; they were young and willing to try new things on the road. Thank heavens they knew one another.

Bones Brigade is made in a somewhat similar way to Dogtown and Z-Boys. Interviews with the main players are coupled with amazing archival footage that resurrects the 1980s. Hawk, probably the most famous skateboarder in the world, is seen as a young, skinny kid, trying to impress his team members with a few unbelievable moves. Mullen, the most thoughtful of the crew, is poetic when talking about how skateboarding changed his life. Peralta himself is featured throughout the film, offering anecdotes on how this synergy came to be.

Listen to our interview with Tony Hawk.

More than anything, Bones Brigade is polished. It looks beautiful, featuring carefully chosen clips and stark imagery, all with the purpose of transporting the viewer to another era. The soundtrack matches the on-screen interviews almost perfectly, pumping a rhythm into the proceedings and giving the movie an undeniable enthusiasm.

There are minor quibbles, as to be expected on anything this deeply personal to all those involved. As much as the film charts the highs and lows of the skateboarding team, too much time is spent on the “highs” and not enough on the pitfalls. There’s a narrative that emerges that feels too matter-of-fact, as if everything historical fits into place because that’s the way it should have been. This inevitability is probably because Peralta is both director and subject; a little more distance between the two could give the film a more journalistic approach.

Read our interview with Stacy Peralta (Part I). Click here for Part II.

However, that’s not to say that Bones Brigade is overly sentimental. In many ways, the subtitle, An Autobiography, is a perfect fit for the documentary. These are the stories of a bunch of guys who did what they wanted at a time when so few were. They traveled the world, constantly reinventing their moves and expanding the definition of possible. The end result is legendary, and yet real. Each of the skateboarders has gone on to meteoric heights, especially Hawk. The fact of the matter is: Sometimes there are overly positive stories. Sometimes there are quality finales. Bones Brigade: An Autobiography is a film made by older men about their younger days, and this sepia-toned testament makes for fun, fun viewing.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Bones Brigade: An Autobiography

  • 2012

  • Directed by Stacy Peralta

  • Featuring Tony Hawk, Peralta, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, Rodney Mullen and Mike McGill

  • Running time: 110 minutes

  • Not rated

  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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