Review by Sean Boelman
Skateboarding company Illegal Civ is known for the things that they do with their skateboarding videos, and so it is only natural that they would evolve into feature filmmaking. And even though North Hollywood is a lot more conventional than one would hope, it’s still an entertaining entry into the coming-of-age genre.
The film follows a teenager who, having recently graduated high school, is torn between going to college or pursuing his dream of becoming a professional skater. It’s a film that desperately wants to be hip and cool, yet lacks the bite to pull it off, borrowing a lot of beats from other, more interesting skate films.
Turning in it a nice, lean ninety-three minutes, the film is consistently pretty entertaining. Granted, since the overall arc is so familiar, it’s never the most involving film, but there are enough cool skate scenes and light humor to keep the pace sailing along. It’s basically exactly what one would expect from this team and cast.
Ultimately, the thing that is perhaps the biggest letdown about this film is that it doesn’t have anything original to say. The messages about growing up and living up to unfair expectations set by one’s family aren’t especially deep, and they certainly aren’t unique, as this is the same ground covered by nearly every coming-of-age arc.
The protagonist is a compelling character, but the thing that this film lacks are interesting supporting players. The protagonist’s sidekicks are both stock characters, preventing his relationship with them from serving as the emotional crux of the story. There isn’t even a gnarly antagonist to differentiate this film from others.
Without a doubt, the most impressive thing about this film is the cast. Ryder McLaughlin does a good job in his leading role, bringing a lot of charisma to the character. It is nice to see Miranda Cosgrove working again, even if it is as a love interest. And Vince Vaughn is a highlight in a role that allows him to showcase his dramatic abilities he has recently been focusing on along with his comedic chops.
As a whole, the film looks fine, even if it does play it safer than expected. Mikey Alfred is undeniably a competent filmmaker, but given his background in other mediums, one would think that his style would be a lot more dynamic. Instead, what we get is a film that is shot in a straightforward way, with the skating doing most of the heavy lifting.
North Hollywood is a film that fans of Illegal Civ will likely want to see, but there are much better skating coming-of-age films (Skate Kitchen immediately comes to mind). Still, it’s fun enough to be worth a watch, even if it will soon be forgotten.
North Hollywood is now available on VOD.