We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

When street culture becomes a corporate commodity, the kids can sell out, sit back and bitch, or move on to something new. Or they can emulate former “Z-Boy” Stacy Peralta and become the chroniclers of their own insurrection. Viewed from even deeper within its chosen phenomenon than the insidery Scratch, Dogtown and Z-Boys is the story of maverick skateboarders the Z-Boys—told by Peralta and Craig Stecyk, the photojournalist who first hyped the legend of the Zephyr Skating Team (which actually included one girl). As co-writer and director Peralta recounts the saga, the Z-Boys hailed from pre-gentrification Santa Monica and Venice, an area that may (or may not) have been popularly known as Dogtown. The local kids lived to surf, supporting innovative board designer Jeff Ho and partners Skip Engblom and (again) Stecyk, who later sponsored the Zephyr team. The daredevils rode perilously through the pylons of a rotting local amusement pier and showed ganglike hostility to outsiders who tried to do the same. When the surf was down, they took to the street, helping to resurrect a sport that had wiped out after its Jan and Dean-celebrated mid-’60s peak. Copying a low-riding Hawaiian surfer—and aided by new urethane wheels, which made skateboards more stable and nimble—the Z-Boys developed moves that stunned the old-schoolers at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals. Then a drought yielded lots of empty pools where the Z-Boys could develop vertical and airborne tricks. Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams—the crew’s inevitable Icarus—became international stars, but things soon went wrong. By the time D.C. high-schoolers Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins arrived in 1978 to check out the scene, the team was splintering, and Ho and Engblom’s shop was doomed. The documentary lacks perspective, and it’s slowed by the narration of Sean Penn, who sounds as if he were reading text he’d just been handed (and which contained some words he’d never seen before). But it’s juiced by quick cuts and punk attitude—much of it supplied by the music of the Stooges, the Buzzcocks, and such—as well as the riding itself. Peralta’s mythologizing may be suspect, but it’s certainly dynamic.—Mark Jenkins