This charm may not be entirely expected. After all, it is (1) an adaptation of a 1970s cop show, (2) arriving maybe a decade after the peak of seventies nostalgia, (3) assembled by director-writer Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School), whose previous movies were only funny to the extent that the actors could overcome his aimless, slapdash staging (Will Ferrell, no problem; Breckin Meyer, less so).
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Roots begins with Kunta Kinte, emerging from childhood and undergoing warrior training in his tribal homeland. The slavers arrive soon enough, and after a harrowing three-month ride back across the Atlantic, Kunta is sold, becomes Toby under his new master, attempts repeated escapes, and eventually accepts his fate as he settles down with a wife and child. The Revolutionary War comes and goes, and Toby's daughter Kizzy is sold, becoming the mother of her new master's son, known as Chicken George. Chicken George in turn is sent to England to pay off a gambling debt. When he returns home after 14 years, he is a free man. The Civil War arrives, and the rest of the slaves are freed. Soon enough the family faces the perils of vehement racism and the KKK, and Chicken George finally leads his family to safety in a new settlement.
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The story, such as it is, centers around The Kid (Prince), a misunderstood sensitive artist type who, given his questionable wardrobe choices, probably got beaten up a lot in high school. Now he hides in the basement of his parents' house while evil Dad takes drunken swings at saintly Mom. When the tension is too much to bear, he chooses from his vast collection of leather and lace, pulls together a fetching and effeminate purple ensemble, hops on his kick-ass purple motorcycle, and heads to downtown Minneapolis, where he and his band are rising stars in the frenetic Twin Cities club scene.
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