Imagine a mix-and-match of the teen comedy of “Superbad” and the slice-of-life vibe of “Dazed and Confused,” and you’ll have an idea of what “North Hollywood,” the new skateboarding dramedy now on VOD.
Michael (Ryder McLaughlin) is on the cusp of one of the great rites of passage, high school graduation. It’s time to figure out how he will begin the next phase of his life. His father Oliver (Vince Vaughn), who has worked construction all his life, wants him to go to college, move up in the world and put their North Hollywood neighborhood in the rearview mirror. “Every day I told myself my son wasn’t going to be some random nobody, just another guy who didn’t make it. That is not the life I want for you.”
Trouble is, Michael doesn’t share his father’s dream.
The gangly altar boy just doesn’t see his future in the inside of a text book. He wants to be a pro skateboarder. “I’m going to go to college and I’m also going to skate. Pops, I’m telling you,” he says, “I’m nice on the board.”
“Your focus needs to be going to college,” dad replies, but like so many teens Michael thinks he knows best and tries to build relationships with professional skaters to kickstart his career. Along the way he also falls into his first love with the goal-oriented Rachel (Miranda Cosgrove).
“North Hollywood” is a coming-of-age story that examines the choices young people make. Should he follow his dream? Or give it away for the life Rachel and his father have in mind.
“North Hollywood” doesn’t break a lot of new ground narratively, but its focus on the characters and male friendship elevates a typical coming-of-age story. A showdown between Michael and his lifelong friend Adolf (Aramis Hudson) is simple, but raw. It cuts to the essence of what happens when one person in the equation grows faster than the other. It’s a theme “North Hollywood” builds on throughout, as Michael morphs from confused teen to someone who will chart his own course in life.
It’s effective but understated. Likeable performances that get under the skins of their characters ensures that this is more than a skateboarding film. Like all good sports inspired stories, the sport is secondary to the universal lessons contained within. Michael learns a lesson in balance, both on a skateboard and in life.