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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'Wassup Rockers'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe... 

'Wassup Rockers' - 2005, Directed by Larry Clark

I guess this is a little more 'mainstream' than the other films I feature on this blog, but just barely. You might know Larry Clark as the director of 'Kids,'  a disturbing real-life drama about teenagers with AIDS. That film was written by Harmony Korine, whose new flick 'Spring Breakers' is turning some heads. Korine seems to be an actual artist; his films are often challenging and usually strange. Clark, on the other hand, has always struck me as a bit of a sleaze. Maybe it's his tendency to make overtly sexual portrayals of young men. Maybe it's the fact that he almost NEVER hires 'good' actors. Or maybe it's that he made a movie called 'Teenage Caveman' that tries to take itself seriously. Whatever the case, I'd say he's a modern-day grindhouse director.

From that description, you might guess I'm not a fan of his work, but that would be incorrect. There's something to be said for pure sleaze, and 'Wassup Rockers' is definitely sleazy.

Clark's film follows a group of young Latino punk rockers from South Central who get picked on by all the gangster dudes because they wear tight pants and ride skateboards. It seems like Clark basically found some skateboard kids and put them in a movie. This isn't a big stretch, as that's basically what he did for 'Kids.' I mean, there are messed-up lines left in the final cut.

So, we get to experience a day in the life of some Latino skateboard kids. We see the casual racism with which people treat them. We see them break the law and have a good time. We also see them crash a Hollywood party and electrocute some lady in her hot tub. There are also some very telling moments, like when one of the kids gets arrested and the others escape without mentioning another word about him.

For what it is, the film is excellent. You feel like you're just coasting through life with these kids. They're dirt-poor, but that's never really a setback. They play music, skateboard, go to school, and chase girls, and it's clear that's all they really want to do.

Though he may be sleazy, Clark is not stupid, and the film has a lot of social commentary. He is, however, an entertainer first and foremost, so it doesn't get bogged down with that sort of thing. It's just a fun road movie that's a little like an updated 'Stand By Me.' Probably my favorite of Clark's films. Except, you know, for 'Teenage Caveman.'

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.