Moviegoers won't be 'Wow'-ed by retro roller skating flick

A movie about roller-skating in the late 1970s starring Bow Wow would make anyone skeptical. Even for Bow Wow fans, the premise just sounds a little dumb.

Thankfully, "Roll Bounce" isn't as dumb as it sounds. The story: Bow Wow plays X, an everyday '70s teenager who concentrates on his love of roller-skating to deal with the death of his mother. X's father, played strongly by Chi McBride, is also trying to get over the death of his wife and beat unemployment.

The film has an odd schizophrenic identity: on the one hand it's a sort of a coming of age comedy featuring Bow Wow and his friends skating and getting girls. The second face of the film is the much more serious story of the struggle of Chi McBride as an African-American trying to find employment despite being qualified and well-educated, and the friction this situation creates with his son. Although neither part is necessarily bad, overall the film seems a little uneven, often fluctuating between completely silly and deadly serious.

The film's strongest aspect is the incredible skating performed by X's various rivals and fellow competitors. In particular, X's arch nemeses "The Sweetwater Rollers" produce some of the best comedic moments in the film. Inspired by John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever," these skaters are over the top hilarious in both appearance and dialogue. They make the OC crew in "You Got Served" and many other recreational gangs look serious by comparison.

A relief in the film is the lack of current pop culture references, and the film for the most part stays grounded in the late '70s. The biggest disappointment comes from the mediocre character Bernard (Nick Cannon), who is a hippyish Jimi Hendrix rip-off.

"Roll Bounce" is an unusual film because of its uneven edginess. The film does have many funny moments and seems a lot more genuine than a lot of dumb comedies in the same vein. It manages to turn an idea that sounds completely unwatchable into an interesting comedy with touches of racial commentary, something that many films today won't risk.

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