If the roller-disco nostalgia comedy "Roll Bounce" didn't have Malcolm D. Lee in the director's chair, it would be downright unwatchable.
Built on a sloppy, fill-in-the-blanks plot, it follows a group of rollerskate-crazy 1970s teens from Chicago's tough South Side as they're forced to migrate to trendy North Side roller disco because their run-down local rink has been shuttered. This leads inevitably to a into a rivalry with hot-shot locals and a "skate-off" finale, and the story couldn't be more stale if the script itself were a dusted-off relic from the Jimmy Carter era.
But Lee has a gift for finding gold nuggets of personality and comedy in the tailings of over-mined plots. He turned 1999's contrived reunion/wedding flick "The Best Man" into a character-rich dramedy and exploited the stupidity of 2002's "Undercover Brother" for great laughs. In "Roll Bounce," he makes up for the shopworn, thoroughly predictable source material by punching up the comedy and hiring talented young stars to flesh out the stock characters.
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