January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Philip Van Horn (Trevor St. John) left his small town roots to become an actor in Hollywood, but his plans didn’t work out as he had pictured. He wound up getting a few gigs as an extra, but little other action, unless you count the kind you don’t want to count. Soon enough, he has out on the streets, in serious danger, and left with no choice other than to return home, where he can collect himself once again. So he prepares to be greeted by those who knew he would fail, but since the local theater is broken down, they have no idea what fate he found in California. He wants to tell the truth about what happened, but the attention and praise gets to him and he plays along with the locals, who think he has become a movie star. The people from his class haven’t been much luckier in life however, as his former love interest Dorothy (Mary Stuart Masterson) has run out of options and the school jock, Ezra (Jon Favreau) finds himself trapped inside the town’s limitations, as well as his own. Will Philip become the town’s star and continue to soak up the limelight, or will he regather his options and save himself, before it is too late?

This 1997 picture has a credible cast, superb cinematography, and great writing & direction from George Hickenlooper, but never garnered much attention. It did manage to win some awards at various film festivals, but didn’t break into the mainstream theaters, not even close to that level, to be honest. I was unable to access this film until Vanguard’s DVD, but I have to say, Dogtown deserves more of an audience, without a doubt. I went in with some decent expectations, but Dogtown surpassed all them, especially in terms of visuals, performances, and writing. I was quite taken with the realism within the dialogue, which is important in a movie like this one, where small town life is taken on. On the same lines, the characters are natural and well developed, thanks in part to some terrific work from the cast. You’ll even know some of these names, like Jon Favreau, Mary Stuart Masterson, Maureen McCormack, and Natasha Gregson Wagner, among a handful of other name brand cast members. This is one of those movies that slipped through the cracks, but now that Vanguard has released a solid disc here, I hope Dogtown gets looked at more and picks up a heavier fanbase.

The main character here I was taken with was Ezra, which is the role played by Jon Favreau, a star on the rise. His career has been evolving for a while now, but Favreau seems prepared to take on more prominent roles, even in if the supporting sense. I think he could shine as a lead with the right material, but Favreau sees to be at his best when given a competent backup role, like the one he tackles here in Dogtown. I don’t think he goes as deep as he could with this part, but he brings Ezra to life well and adds a solid character into the mix. His brash, primitive nature seems natural and believable, which is a real compliment, since he seems like a good person in interviews and behind the scenes materials. Other films with Favreau include The Replacements, Made, Deep Impact, Swingers, and Very Bad Things. The cast also includes Trevor St. John (Bio-Dome, Higher Learning), Mary Stuart Masterson (Bed of Roses, The Florentine), and Natasha Gregson Wagner (Modern Vampires, Urban Legend).

Video: How does it look?

Dogtown is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is a solid, acceptable visual effort, but an anamorphic treatment could have boosted it a few notches. There is some shimmering and jagged edges that added resolution could have cleared up, and in turn enhanced the image levels. The print is much better condition than I had expected, with only minor nicks and such present. I saw no errors with the colors or contrast either, as those elements seem clean and in proper form, no lost detail, smeared hues, or unnatural flesh tones to report. I do wish Vanguard had used an anamorphic transfer, but even as it stands, this is a solid looking presentation.

Audio: How does it sound?

A more than solid stereo option is used here, which more than handles the material, so no worries there. This movie is anchored with dialogue, with some music and sound effects presence, but not too much. This is a low level, natural kind of film in terms of audio, which this mix replicates with terrific results. The vocals are clean, crisp, and always in the proper balance, while the other elements stream through in fine form also. I don’t think you’ll want to use this mix to showcase your home theater, but it covers the needs of the material.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This includes an informative commentary track with director George Hickenlooper (who is joined by the film’s cinematographer & one of the producers), some deleted scenes, a brief behind the scenes featurette, and the film’s trailer.

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