This is one of those movies that on the cover should have a big quote from Roger Ebert or somebody saying “Seriously, not that bad!” I’m not gonna try to convince anybody that ROLL BOUNCE is great but it is actually very well made and watchable for a movie about kids rollerskating. You can face that fact or not, I don’t give a fuck, but there it is. ROLL BOUNCE is kind of good.
Now if you are new around here you may not be familiar with me, I should probaly specify that I am not some pedophile or somebody, and personally I have never reviewed a movie about kids rollerskating before. ROLLERBALL was strictly adults and so was DERBY. I’m a first timer here for this type of material is what I’m saying, and don’t worry I won’t make it a habit.
But ROLL BOUNCE is kind of a family comedy type deal about black teenagers in the ’70s who like to rollerskate, but their local rink gets shut down at the beginning of the summer so they go across town to “Sweetwater,” the rich kid rink and end up deciding they have to win the big skate off that will take place at the end of the movie.
Now, usually this type of movie would be all about training and trying to become champions and all that shit. Eye of the tiger. But for some reason this one just has a montage or two about that. Actually come to think of it I have no idea when or how they learned how to skate as good as they did at the end. For most of the movie they kind of suck, and then all the sudden they oughta be in the Olympics and who knows how the fuck they made that transition. But I guess that’s part of the mystery of ROLL BOUNCE. There’s a little more going on than skating because in addition to mourning the loss of his skating rink, the main kid is mourning the loss of his mother. It gets pretty sappy and it actually works. See the paragraph regarding “The Two Hs” for more information.
The main kid is played by child turned fake rapper turned actor Bow Wow. He used to be called Li’l Bow Wow but now he is regular sized so he dropped the Li’l. I know it makes me a chump that I insisted on mentioning the whole “Li’l” thing but let’s face it I would also be a chump if I had to mention an actor named “Bow Wow” and just pretend like that was okay. So it’s a lose-lose situation. Anyway Bow Wow does a good job in the movie, he’s not bad.
Bow Wow also has a whole crew of skating cohorts played mostly by actors with normal human names. I recognized two of them as actors who get alot of roles purely because they have afros. You got the kid who played The Rock’s nephew in WALKING TALL (PG-13 remake) and you got the kid who was a frat boy in OLD SCHOOL and then graduated to adult life in WAR OF THE WORLDS and now has been bumped back to high school in ROLL BOUNCE, possibly as punishment because I was complaining in my review that you can’t have the dude from BIKER BOYZ all the sudden show up as Tom Cruise’s buddy from work. Also in the non-afro department is the girl who played Eve in EVE’S BAYOU. So there’s a marquee name in the cast, technically speaking.
The two main things this has besides rollerskates is the two Hs, heart and humor. The heart comes in with Bow Wow’s tense relationship with his dad played by Chi McBride, the Charles S. Dutton of the new millennium. There’s a subplot about how his dad pretends to be going to work every morning but actually was laid off and is trying to find a new job, but doesn’t want his kids to worry about it. This is actually a really touching part of the movie and it even has whole heartwrenching scenes with just the dad out in the world dealing with this problem. Take that teenagers, you’re gonna have to watch scenes without Bow Wow in them, just an old aviation engineer in a tie who has to swallow his pride and consider becoming a janitor. Fuck you, kids.
Then there’s the humor. These are funny kids that talk alot of shit and there’s some good dialogue. Mike Epps (NEXT FRIDAY, guy who might play Richard Pryor) and Charlie Murphy (CHAPPELLE’S SHOW, funnier than his brother Eddie now) have a couple scenes as wacky garbage men. And of course there’s the easy laughs that come from very earnest and well choreographed roller disco scenes. But most of the laughs come from just kids hanging out in the neighborhood, getting into scuffles and what not. What this really feels like to me is FRIDAY for kids. Except come to think of it FRIDAY has way more poo poo humor than ROLL BOUNCE does. So maybe it’s actually FRIDAY for adults but without pot. I’m not sure.
My one complaint about ROLL BOUNCE is that it doesn’t make any effort to stick it to the white man. When I saw the trailer I thought the prissy white disco dudes in jumpsuits represented the pricks at the rich people rink they have to compete against. Unfortunately in the movie these guys are only part of a multi-culti elite guard for the local skating champ, Sweetness, who is black. Okay so maybe it’s a good message for the kids to get along and be color blind and hold hands across america and everything but for us FRIDAY watching adults I think ROLL BOUNCE would be even more enjoyable if the bad guys were disco-listening white assholes. We already know from the opening credits that Bow Wow skates to Parliament, so let’s put all the cards on the table and let it be known that during this unparalleled era of funk and soul music, white motherfuckers were listening to some real bullshit.
In fact this movie coulda gone way deeper than that. Imagine if the movie ROLL BOUNCE as it exists today was only ACT I of a generational epic. Bow Wow proves himself in the skate off, then it skips forward twenty years and continues for another 2 hours or more. The ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA of teen roller disco comedies. Maybe that wouldn’t be necessary. But how can we really know for sure until somebody does it?
Anyway even at a measly 112 minutes it’s pretty good in my opinion.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.