Thrasher Magazine’s Michael Burnett, who is one of the best writers in the space over the last decade, a couple years back wrote a simultaneously biting and loving intro to a Billy Marks interview in which he positioned the dude’s spendthrift and oftentimes fleeting love affair with “gadgets” and his generally relaxed attitude toward personal responsibility as fundamentally American personality traits, and some type of moustachioed, roast beef-grabbing mirror into which we all could gaze as the nation was tossed upon the horns of a fearsome economic decline.
There is a similar sensibility careening through Girl/Chocolate’s “Pretty Sweet,” or maybe more like a jittery animal instinct, allegedly governing a cultural attention span fragmented across mobile phones, social networks, flatscreen TVs and 3D IMAX movie theaters — beginning with an extended-take intro that dissolves into day-glo pyrotechnics and thumping electronic music with robot vocals, rarely lingering on one shot for more than a few seconds and deploying fireworks, special effects, time-lapse video and of course the super slow-mo. Ty Evans is eager to fish out all his tools as soon as the first part gets underway, chopping Vincent Alvarez’s more-Chocolatey-than-others tricks into a multi-course dog’s dinner determined to move as quickly between tricks and filler shots as fast as Alvarez pushes, with an aural nod to a previous Chocolate production before upshifting again to a third act, which naturally is soundtracked a custom-made song performed by a pro skater and a member of Metallica. Vincent Alvarez spins a 540 out of a curb cut and you blink and are dazed and wonder what has been happening.
And so it goes, as Hollywood celebrities again supply off-color commentary on session sidelines, dudes carve nearly up to the rooftops of buildings and Ty Evans reaches deep inside his bag of digital hocus pocus for other occasional curveballs. Many of these are not new ideas, as the invisible ramps and obstacles from “Yeah Right” make a reappearance, along with the souped-up slams from “Fully Flared” and some synchronized skating and crowd control that provided whimsy in “Hot Chocolate.” The slow-mo super cam is deployed heavily throughout, though in shorter bursts that add Hype Williams alongside Michael Bay and George Lucas as apparent inspirational touchstones for the directors here. There are some fun surreal moments, like the liquifying ledge and the suddenly multiplying boards, that signal some hope for a collaboration if Spike Jonez really were to exercise his “Malkovich” muscle.
The editing and production that are loudly at the center of “Pretty Sweet” takes their cue partly from the skating, which is as diverse a roster as Girl and Chocolate have ever recruited. Bowls, ledges, handrails, gaps, waterslides, ditches and the beloved mini picnic tables all are schralped upon by dudes whose ages must now span about two decades, including both dudes who have beards and other dudes who don’t. The Anti-Hero fandom from those summertime tours is in play, mostly by certain of the “Trunk Boyz” contingent, while a lot of the aging stalwarts tally new and lower-impact ways to spin and shove-it and flip out of tricks.
Some cosmic pendulum is aswing here. “Goldfish” arrived as the early 1990s’ obsession with slow-moving pressure flippery and brightly colored giant pants gave way to smoother and simpler tricks carried out from inside loose-fit blue jeans, and somebody out there would probably argue the case for Guy Mariano’s “Mouse” section setting some high-water mark for difficult tricks made to look easy with a minimum of fuss. There’s no goofy boy outfits strapped on in “Pretty Sweet” but a smith grind laser flip comes off like sprinting in the opposite direction, skating-wise. The younguns too embrace the spirit of excess, as they toast foamy beers and are tracked by camera-toting helicopters and dolly rigs that advance the filmer slowly through a grove of trees to capture a lipslide in the wild. Cory Kennedy, whose mid-backside tailslide kickflip attains the rare status of super-technical tricks that look as good on film as they did in a sequence, casually precedes one handrail NBD with a four-trick run. Such is the embarrassment of riches in Torrance that Eric Koston (Eric Koston) is relegated to a cameo in someone else’s section.
There is a sunny and light-hearted something bouncing through “Pretty Sweet” that, combined with the production values and skits reminded me sometimes more of a mid-period Bones Brigade movie rather than any of the Girl/Choco catalog in particular. This one doesn’t feel so much like it’s got the chip on its shoulder that “Fully Flared” did — Guy Mariano’s comeback is sealed, Marc Johnson seems to have exorcised some of the demons that drove him to record a 15-minute part and abruptly retreat to a mountain compound, Eric Koston no longer carries the weight of the team on his back by way of benchmark tricks, Mike Carroll and Rick Howard seem content in a shift toward full-time mogul status. Chico Brenes shows up and does his nollie heelflips and Jeron Wilson is not sweating it. Also it seems weird to think of someone like Brandon Biebel as a veteran pro, but at this point he definitely is one.
Like with “Stay Gold” some loose talk has gone around to the effect that “Pretty Sweet” will be “the last big video” which, well, you can just imagine how that must hurt the feelings of the poor DGK team members who are getting ready to release their first full-length in about two weeks’ time. You do wonder though what the next Girl video may look like, as there will for sure have to be one unless Ty Evans is conscripted to tote camera machinery through some Eastern European forest in service of the next crop of Disney-owned “Star Wars” movies. Can a lineup underpinned by Mike Mo, Cory Kennedy, Alex Olson and Sean Malto in four or five years’ time command the same gravitas and hoopla as something like “Pretty Sweet” or “Fully Flared” without the decades-deep vets on board? With the VHS-fetishizing movement alive and well, will Crailtap be forced to double down on high-definition recording devices and co-located editing engines? Could there one day be an entire section of after-black editing hammers?