Movie Review: North Hollywood

North Hollywood is a biographical coming-of-age sports comedy drama, loosely based on writer-director Mikey Alfred’s life and relationship with his father. The film stars Ryder McLaughlin, a real-life skateboarder who does most of his own stunts to create an added level of authenticity in this vivid slice-of-life drama.

Pivoting between a high school graduate’s dreams of going pro and his father’s desire for him to get a real college education, tension rises as the young man attempts to go his own way. Aiming for an immersive quality, there is a gritty Saturday Night Fever undercurrent to North Hollywood as Michael’s lofty daydreaming is scattered by a cold hard reality.

Vince Vaughan plays a no-nonsense father, paying tribute to his sharp supporting role in Into the Wild as a tough love mentor, trading his usual charming motormouth comedy for a more direct and serious turn. Leveraging this core father-son dynamic, much like the comedy drama Material, North Hollywood has a school of hard knocks sensibility as their difference of opinion leads to much head-butting and ill discipline.

“Birth, school, skateboarding, death right?”

Trying to weasel his way into the the inner circle of professional skateboarders, a process of trial and error finds the naïve wannabe sacrificing lifelong friendships in an attempt to draw closer to his dreams. Growing up on the streets, North Hollywood has heart, humour and some hard-hitting moments that shape and influence the reckless young man as he attempts to get ahead of his peers and dodge skate punks.

Featuring real skateboarding sequences, a cross-section of North Hollywood during a skateboarding boom and many of the vices and catchphrases that characterise the age, this coming-of-age sports drama is spurred by a plucky optimism. Spirited performances, an unaffected retelling, raw honesty and an eclectic soundtrack distinguish this hardy and tenacious movie about following your dreams at all costs.

Grounded by the lived experiences of its writer-director, the coarse language and violent outbursts may be accurate, but add distance in our attempts to resonate with Michael’s precarious disposition and self-destructive tendencies. While an inspired decision to go with a skateboarder turned actor, the naturalistic performance mostly pays off as the father-son bond intensifies. North Hollywood is entertaining and provocative, even if not entirely appealing, avoiding the scenic route to offer a timeless exploration of cutting the proverbial apron strings against a dog-eat-dog backdrop.

The bottom line: Vivid