(director/writer: Larry Clark; screenwriters: based on a story by Larry Clark and Matthew Frost; cinematographer: Steve Gainer; editor: Alex Blatt; music: Harry Cody; cast: Jonathan Velasquez (Jonathan), Francisco Pedrasa (Kico), Milton Velasquez (Milton/Spermball), Usvaldo Panameno (Porky), Eddie Velasquez (Eddie), Luis Rojas Salgado (Louie), Carlos Ramirez (Carlos), Janice Dickinson (Drunk Woman); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Larry Clark/Kevin Turen/Henry Winterstern; First Look Studios; 2005)
“It was hard to keep awake during all the tedium.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Shock-meister photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark’s (“Kids”) latest is a more mellow look at the urban youth culture than his other projects; it’s more interested in comedy than sociological data. This time he turns his attentions to Hispanics in South Central Los Angeles. It’s seen through the pretty eyes of the 14-year-old El Salvadorian refugee Jonathan Velasquez, a skateboarder and punk rock fan, living in a primarily Mexican-American and African-American neighborhood. Jonathan’s group of seven (all non-professionals) is dissed by the hip-hop blacks, who disdainfully yell out at ’em: Wassup rockers? The film tells of one day in the life of these rockers.
The Wassup Rockers are not toughs or hoods, but horny and aimless kids who dig skateboarding around LALA land en masse, punk rock, partying and styling in tight jeans. Jonathan and his crew—Kico, Spermball, Porky, Eddie, Louie, and Carlos—are energetic and photogenic. There’s so much time spent showing off their tender kiddie bods and skateboard practice, that it was hard to keep awake during all the tedium. The film builds to its main point about LA racism, as the rockers hit all kinds of neighborhoods from gangbanger ones to ritzy Beverly Hills. They face off and are seemingly unfazed by a racist stereotyped LA cop harassing them. The adventure continues as the rockers are looking for upscale white chicks and the challenge of skateboarding at Beverly Hills’ “nine steps,” a local site that is known to the skaters because of its challenge: it involves leaping over a concrete stairway and remaining vertical upon landing. The rockers reach Beverly Hills and pick up some local honeys. It leads to a conflict with the well-dressed preppie white boys who attack the rockers and send them back to the ghetto by forcing them to go through the backyards of Beverly Hills. The reactions from the rich whites upon see the group range from liberals accepting them as the Ramones or a rich drunken actress taking them home for a soak in the tub or getting an invite to a gay party by a record producer type or Charlton Heston wannabes giving them unwanted stares and firing pistols at them. In the end, they’re rescued by friendly Hispanic maids who usher them out of the culturally challenging confines of white suburbia.
Clark’s attempt at romanticizing these hardcore punks never seemed anything but a ludicrous idea, something better suited for a documentary. Everything looked as phony as the rock swagger coming from the kiddies with the beautiful shaggy hair and inviting shots of their crotches. After so many clueless caricatures and some unneeded scenes of cartoonish violence, the film trails off leaving us with just so many stereotyped characterizations and an unfunny farcical fantasy mess that doesn’t even manage to say much about the misfit kiddies living in their own make-believe world.
REVIEWED ON 12/5/2006 GRADE: C –