Roll Bounce Movie Review

In Roll Bounce, Malcolm D. Lee's comedy-drama set in 1978 Chicago, five friends find another place to skate after their neighborhood spot closes, but immediately get humiliated by the rink's hero and his band of well-dressed cronies. The boys leave frustrated, but return months later for the Roller Jam face-off.

We should leave happy and satisfied after rooting for these young men every step of the way, but we don't, and the reason is clear. The movie's dancers and the music may have soul, but Roll Bounce has none, and it starts with the characters.

The leader of these friends, and the only fully developed character, is Xavier, played by Bow Wow (nee Lil Bow Wow). His friends are in goofy sidekick mode from the get-go, and not worthy of our attention, which may not have been the case if Lee had focused on the boys' practice sessions and whatever conflicts arose. Consequently, Xavier gets loaded with a ridiculous array of problems; you don't know whether to send him to counseling or the nearest Greek theater.

For all of Xavier's woes (distant father, dead mother), Roll Bounce doesn't stir any feelings, not for teenagers young and old, and especially not for anyone who grew up in the 1970s. Lee and writer Norman Vance Jr.'s portray the era as if they've read a collection of MAD magazines from 1978. Extras don hot pants, references to Atari and What's Happening!! pop up. The movie is as much a recollection of a simpler time or of growing up amidst a post-'60s backdrop as MTV's vacant reality show The 70's House. Vance's heavy-handed dramatic content further highlights the movie's shallow alliance of high concept ease and kitsch appeal.

The skating scenes, which should distract from the pained dramatic proceedings, disappoint, as it becomes apparent with every shot of feet and cheering crowds, that none of the actors are actually, well, roll bouncing. And the movie's big conflict -- that Xavier and his friends from the supposedly low-class South Side are triumphing over the rich kids -- is hard to appreciate when Xavier's neighborhood looks like Bill Levitt's wet dream.

There is so much wrong here that even the good news is bad. Roll Bounce continues my favorite trend of 2005: Movies made with no apparent audience in mind. Over the last three months, the public was treated to an irrelevant update of The Honeymooners that didn't appeal to the show's die hard fans or to anyone under the age of 45. Then, there was The Man, which answered America's overwhelming demand for the pairing of Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy.

Sure, Roll Bounce features Bow Wow, who has a following and is improving as an actor, but who was this movie made for? No one who was a teenager in the 1970s, or in the 1990s for that matter, will find the movie relevant to that awkward period: It leans too heavily on juvenile antics and paint-by-numbers conflicts. Millions of kids may love skateboarding, but has anyone seen a group of kids practicing splits and elaborate dance numbers on their skates? Who even wears roller skates these days?

After watching Roll Bounce, it's doubtful anyone is going to start.

(Note: Those looking for a far superior 20th century viewpoint of the teenage years should rent Freaks and Geeks on DVD. The man behind the short-lived TV series: Judd Apatow, the director and co-writer of The 40 Year-Old Virgin.)

Cast & Crew

Director : Malcolm D. Lee

Producer : , George Tillman Jr.


Roll Bounce Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, 2005


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