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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Retro Review: Roll Bounce (2005)

Roll Bounce
Cast: Shad ''Bow Wow'' Smith, Meagan Good, Chi McBride, Mike Epps, Wesley Jonathan, Jurnee Smollett, Marcus T. Paulk, Brandon T. Jackson
Genre: Comedy Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $17 million

Plot: A teenager and his group of friends face new challenges when their neighbourhood rollerskating rink closes, forcing them to visit a different rink

'Seventies Roller Skating Flick Which Needed More Bounce'

Roll Bounce is a nice, safe and predictable underdogs triumphing over the odds - type of movie that is pretty conventional, yet also easy-going, pleasant and feel-good. Granted, the story doesn't hook you in immediately and is not engaging enough to invest in the film and its main characters. 

It's 1978: in Chicago, Illinois, a teenager by the name of Xavier or ''X'' as he is known by his friends hangs out at a local roller rink. But Xavier's personal life is going through numerous phases: he has a crush on a girl, Naomi, much to the chagrin of his female friend, Tori, his mother passed away with Xavier's father, Curtis raising him and his younger sister, whilst dealing with Tori's mother, Vivian, who has a thing for Curtis. As well as all of this, Xavier and his crew are challenged by undisputed skating champion, Sweetness and his team in a major roller disco competition. 

Written by Norman Vance Jr (Beautyshop, which I thought wasn't too bad), the title of the film is derived from the 1979 song, ''Bounce, Rock, Skate & Roll'', yet the main problem is the narrative isn't compelling, nor are its subplots, of which some of them could have been cut down. The tone, however, is good; infectious and with that retro '70s vibe that it evokes and the performances are very good for the most part. But numerous times, I lost concentration as the story lost its way towards the end. Being a two-hour movie, there just wasn't that many entertaining and exciting scenes and moments. 

Some characters get a look-in and some attention, but character development is moot (you don't get to see them and their efforts in developing their skating abilities) and all the attention is placed on the narrative, which lacked that extra something. Had it not been for the roller skating scenes -which makes Roll Bounce come to life -, this would've fallen flat on its arse. Although regarding that aspect, I found that to be the most enjoyable aspect -, and still, it felt like there wasn't enough of them. The quality of the skating scenes are good and filmed well, but quantity-wise, I felt there needed to have been more; that and they make Roll Bounce a tad more enjoyable.  Even if it doesn't go to greater lengths to make roller skating one of the coolest, baddest and jaw-dropping things on earth, which in other cases, it is and should have been.

As with the performances, Shad ''Bow Wow'' Smith is good and he has a natural charm and ability as he convinces in his role. It just seems like with himself and the remaining performances they all manage to strike a balance. Yet I just wished it was tad exciting and it was even funkier. The remaining performances were good also and there wasn't really a bad one to speak of. Well, perhaps for Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy's, of whom were not effective.

It's earnest with plenty of heart and its message is wholesome, but there needed to have been more of that spark, be it more roller dancing and skating scenes and even better ones also, wittier banter and more drama to drive Roll Bounce forward. Although the soundtrack is groovy with wall-to-wall tracks such as Bill Withers' Lovely Day, Chic's Le Freak and Boogie Oogie Oogie by Brooke Valentine, Fabolous and Yo-Yo. 

Director Malcolm D. Lee does well in embracing and conveying that 1970s vibe as it pays homage to its roots, just as he did in Undercover Brother, and yet, it's easy to get lost in Roll Bounce's haze, as the plotlines wear thin and the story staggers its way towards the dance-off finale. 

Final Verdict:

Roll Bounce is nice and pleasant and simple in its execution and it's definitely one I will be rewatching, and yet it also feels as though it needed to go even further in the story, as well as perhaps been little edgier in places too. The movie didn't set the box office alight and watching this, I can understand why now. 

It is an ambitious attempt and a nice concept; if only it tried a little harder with a little less roll and more "oomph".  


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