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Sunday, October 13, 2013

ROLL BOUNCE -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online in 2006 at

In the name of all that is holy, a 2005 movie that takes us back to the dark days of disco roller boogie should be one of the most blood-curdlingly craptacular films of the year.  So how come ROLL BOUNCE didn't drive me screaming into the night in my underwear?

First of all, hip-hop star Bow Wow is a pretty good actor with a likable screen presence.  Although the opening title shots of him skating by himself in a big, empty rink are obviously composed of close-ups of Bow Wow spinning around mixed with below-the-waist shots of a stunt skater doin' his thang, which immediately brought back unpleasant memories of FLASHDANCE, this didn't really matter much after awhile. 

After all, actors have stunt riders, stunt drivers, stunt fighters, stunt dancers, stunt naked bodies, etc., so I guess they might as well have stunt skaters, too.  And the scenes are edited pretty well unless you're really paying attention to this, except for a couple of moments that look uncomfortably like those old Benny Hill routines which would show a dancer's fleet feet intercut with close-ups of Benny hopping and twirling around.

Bow Wow (or just Bow, as his friends call him, or Mr. Wow as he's known formally) plays Xavier, or "X", a typical fun-loving teen who likes to skate at the local Palisade Gardens Roller Rink with his friends Boo, Junior, Naps, and "Mixed" Mike.  (Naps and "Mixed" Mike have less than two black parents apiece, which makes them subject to a bit of good-natured ribbing now and then.) 
But the rink is closing its doors after 25 wonderful years, which means these skate-happy Southside boys might actually have to venture over to (shudder!) the dreaded Northside from now on in order to indulge in their favorite pasttime.  (I'm not sure what's so bad about the Northside -- maybe they have a really smelly chicken-processing plant over there.) 

What will become of their beloved Palisade Gardens?  Most likely it will be converted into a "gun shop, barbecue shack, chicken spot, liquor store -- or all four-in-one" they sadly surmise.  Which is too bad, because the rink's DJ is none other than Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, who appears all-too-briefly as "DJ Smooth Dee."

In a scene that many of us can identify with, the guys realize with horror that the street lights have just come on.  "Oh, shit -- later!" X cries, hightailing it home.  We discover that he has an irritating little sister who delights in loudly announcing his late arrival, and a single dad (UNDERCOVER BROTHER's Chi McBride) who is trying to raise his kids the best he can after the tragic loss of his wife.  There will be several heated father-son confrontations during the movie, which gets rather dramatic and heartfelt at times, though the script handles this pretty well. 

Eventually the kids make it over to the Sweetwater Roller Rink, which is a wonderland of neon and glitter -- it looks like the sort of place John Travolta would skate in, or at least Linda Blair.  The music is strange and different, too.  "Y'all never heard of the Bee Gees?" asks their metal-mouthed female companion, Tori (Jurnee Smollett).  "No," one of them replies, "but it sounds like something my cousin caught from his girlfriend.  I heard it makes your balls fall off."

Here, they soon encounter their fiercest competition, the ickily-flamboyant Sweetwater Rollers, headed by that hot, hunky, super-fly woman's dream himself, Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan, who you may or may not remember from a film entitled HOW TO GET THE MAN'S FOOT OUTTA YOUR ASS).  Well, wouldn't you know it -- the big Skate-Off is only days away, and the Sweeties lay down the challenge to the X-Men.  This, of course, leads to a huge climactic confrontation of skating skills that will finally be determined by a one-on-one roller boogie battle between the champ, Sweetness, and our hero, X. 

Surprisingly, none of this is as bad as it sounds.  Director Malcolm D. Lee (UNDERCOVER BROTHER) gives much of the action a fun, cartoony look, especially in scenes such as X skating his paper route in what amounts to a live-action version of the old "Paperboy" videogame, and there's a lot of comedy that works very well. 

In one scene, X hurries to get the trash out on time and is confronted by trashmen Byron and Victor, who don't appreciate having to backtrack for his late garbage cans and somehow logically put forth the claim that doing so might very well result in their becoming male prostitutes.  While X ponders this, his dad walks by and notices him standing there in his underwear.  "Put some clothes on, boy -- this ain't Africa," he chides, and Victor adds, "You wanna check your package -- you got a little fruit hangin' outta your loom." 

As a period piece, it gives us plenty of late-70s goodies such as afros, bell-bottoms, an Atari 2600 console featuring the now-primitive "Asteroids" game, and, of course, plenty of classic songs from the likes of Kool And The Gang, Parliament, Chic, Donna Summer, and the Bee Gees (Stanley Clarke provides the incidental music). 

For the guys, there are beautiful babes such as X's maybe-girlfriend Naomi (YOU GOT SERVED's Meagan Good) and the fantasy widow-next-door Vivian (Kellita Smith), who, as we well know, will get together with X's dad in the end.  And for the girls, there's -- ooh -- Sweetness.

As roller-boogie movies go, this is definitely one of the best.  So if you're looking for something fun and entertaining that isn't nearly as dumb as it should've been, check out ROLL BOUNCE, even if your local video store just closed down and the only other one in town is on the Southside.

Buy it at


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