Even though I never really learned how to skate, I have fond memories of going to skating rinks when I was a kid. My school would sometimes hold skating events at a local rink. I would hang out with my friends and attempt to skate as popular music boomed through the building. Going to the skating rink was the closest thing we kids had to a fun, club-like atmosphere. I haven’t been to a skating rink in years but seeing the film Roll Bounce certainly made me a little nostalgic.
Roll Bounce is the newest film from the producers of Soul Food and the Barbershop films. It takes place in 1970′s Chicago and features an appealing cast. Bow Wow stars as Xavier (a.k.a. X), a great skater who lives with his widower father Curtis (Chi McBride) and his baby sister Sonya (Busisiwe Irvin). As the film begins, X and his friends Junior (Brandon T. Jackson), Boo (Marcus T. Paulk), Naps (Rick Gonzalez), and “Mixed” Mike (Khleo Thomas) are skating together at a local roller rink on its last day of business. Xavier and his father get new neighbors in single mother Vivian (Kellita Smith) and her daughter Tori (Jurnee Smollett). Tori joins the boys on a trip to the Sweetwater Roller Rink all the way on the other side of town. While there, X runs into Naomi (Meagan Good), an old friend who has certainly matured since the last time he saw her. Sweetwater is “ruled” by Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan), a flamboyant skater whose crew has won the Sweetwater Skate-Off five years running. Fueled by the arrogance of Sweetness’ crew, Xavier and the guys decide to enter the skate-off and represent for the South Side.
All the actors in this film put in good performances, especially Bow Wow and Chi McBride. The main dramatic subplot of the film has Xavier and Curtis clashing as they realize that neither of them has gotten over the death of Xavier’s mother. Both Bow Wow and Chi McBride are effective in those dramatic scenes. Also, there are some small supporting roles that draw some laughs. Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy play garbage men while Nick Cannon plays Bernard, the clerk behind the skate rental counter at Sweetwater.
Roll Bounce is one of those films filled with so much energy and fun, you don’t really notice any shortcomings. The skating sequences are entertaining, the old-school soundtrack is wonderful, and the characters are likable. I enjoyed Malcolm D. Lee’s light-hearted direction including the retro split screens during the skate-off. Roll Bounce is a nice way to kill time at the movies…and it may just make you want to roller skate again.