[box cover]

Roll Bounce

So let's get the qualifiers out of the way before saying a bunch of nice things about Roll Bounce (2005): This movie is, without a doubt, a powerfully silly brain vacation. It's a by-the-numbers underdogs-versus-bullies comedy. It's set in the cutthroat world of 1978 roller rinks. It's the spiritual cousin of Breakin'. And when it doesn't stay focused on jam-skating disco hijinks, it's bogged down by a melodramatic middle section better-suited to an ABC-TV Afterschool Special. So why is it so enjoyable? Directed by Spike's cousin Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother), Roll Bounce is one of those movies that gets a couple of things exactly right — and if you're in the right mood, those couple of things redeem much of what the movie gets wrong. For one thing, Lee just nails the peculiar world of late-'70s roller-skating without laughing at it. (Slant magazine praised the film's "knack for authentic period detail," which seems like a terribly high-falutin' way to praise a movie that simply knows where to put its Afro picks.) Anyone hovering slightly north of their mid-30s is bound to smile a little at being asked to root for a roller-skating paperboy named Xavier "X" Smith (played by the extremely charismatic Bow Wow, who seems to think dropping the "Lil'" but leaving the "Bow Wow" connotes maturity). X and his Cosby-kid pals (Brandon T. Jackson, Rick Gonzalez, Marcus T. Paulk, and Khleo Thomas) dodge water balloons, spar with a tomboy (Jurnee Smollett), and work kung-fu moves into their skate routines as they compete against a team of polyester-clad roller-thugs led by a guy named "Sweeetness" (Wesley Jonathan). Incredibly, Lee doesn't play any of this for irony points — and at its best, Roll Bounce offers a sweet, nostalgic, upbeat take on inner-city life that Fat Albert (2004) utterly missed. It's only when Lee takes his gaze off the roller rink, so X can flirt with a bland cutie (Meagan Good) or argue with his widowed father (Chi McBride), that Roll Bounce is a major eye-roller. But one can only get so annoyed with a movie that ends with a "skate-off." Fox's DVD release of Roll Bounce features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include three commentary tracks, one by director Malcolm D. Lee, a second with Lee joined by stars Bow Wow and Mike Epps, and a third with Lee joined by screenwriter Norman Vance Jr. and producer Robert Teitel. Also on board are 12 deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Lee and Vance and a "play all" option), a "Bow Wow profile" featurette (4 min.), the additional featurettes "'70s Stylin': The Look of Roll Bounce" (4 min.) and "Forward Motion: The Making of Roll Bounce" (13 min.), two skating competition newswraps, a gag reel (10 min.), a music video, and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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