Meet Bow Wow at the roller rink

High-energy ‘Roll Bounce’ favors fun, skates past plot

by Keri Carlson

Roller skates have made a comeback. Roller skaters star in commercials (notably one for iPod). Roller derbies have sprung up in every city. And now the roller disco film “Roll Bounce” is released.

But just as roller skate images increase, roller rinks are torn down.

“Roll Bounce” takes advantage of the nostalgic roller-skating trend, yet at the same time, pays homage to loss of the roller rinks.

The film begins as five Southside Chicago friends in the late 1970s mourn the loss of their neighborhood roller rink.

Now, to get their roller fix, the friends must travel all the way to the Northside (a big deal in Chicago) to an interracial rink where instead of the P-funkiness of the Southside, they find the Bee Gees.

At the new, fancier rink, the Southside boys, led by head skater X (Bow Wow), are scoffed at for their shoddy skates and un-sequenced pants.

On the Southside, X and company ruled, but on the Northside, they have some serious competition from ladies-man Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan) and his crew. X may have the bounce, but he quickly learns his skills can’t match the tricks the new skaters bring to the rink.

Predictably, “Roll Bounce” ends with a competition between the two crews ultimately leading to a skate-off.

But this familiar plot doesn’t really matter. “Roll Bounce” is meant to be a certain kind of film; it’s supposed to be fun. In the vein of “Bring It On” and “You Got Served,” “Roll Bounce” delivers smiles without worrying about plotlines.

Director Malcolm D. Lee develops the friendships with lots of antics and yo’ mamma jokes. But beyond that, the plot of X dealing with his recently deceased mother and his father struggling to find work is sloppy and comes off as laughable rather than deep.

But no one goes to see these films for the plot.

Instead, the biggest downside to the film is the role of female characters. None of the girls are good skaters and, in fact, the friend Tori and love interest Naomi are there only to cheer on the roller boys.

But these faults can be overlooked. “Roll Bounce” delivers plenty of awesome roller-skating scenes. Skaters wiggle their legs like limp spaghetti, jump in the air and spin to the beat of “Hollywood Swinging.”

In the way “Bring It On” made cheerleading look fantastic, “Roll Bounce” takes roller-skating to a new level.

“Roll Bounce” definitely creates the desire to put on a pair of skates and a Kool and the Gang record. But it’s too bad; there might not be enough rinks left.