If you aren’t familiar with what Roll Bounce is, you will be pleasantly surprised by some of the tricks this small coming-of-age film pulls out of its hat. I expected horrendous acting, a poorly written script, and a story that cared more about racially motivated laughs than honesty. What I got was just the opposite. First of all, the film’s success begins and ends with a top-drawer screenplay that perfectly captures teen angst as well as the fears and traumas of growing up. Not something one would expect abou… a young boy and his wisecracking friends, who seem to care about nothing more than boogie-oogie-oogie’n down at their local roller rink. Admittedly, the device of roller-skating does get a bit silly, but the interpersonal relationships draw the material away from farce.
Other strong points are the performances of virtually everyone with a speaking role – also not expected for a film whose two major stars are Bow-Wow and Nick Cannon. The relationship of Xavier (Bow-Wow) and his father (Chi McBride) skyrocket every other aspect of this feature, turning Roll Bounce into a much better effort than anyone could have ever expected. And the laughs – while not taking center stage – are certainly present, thanks in large part to the interplay among Xavier and his friends and the scene-stealing performances of Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy as the smart-mouthed garbage men. Last but not least, the story more often than not takes the road less traveled, and that keeps everything fresh and interesting. While competition films simply cannot end in a non-cliché method, this one avoids predictability up to the conclusion.
Unfortunately, the two clichés of how a competition film can end are predisposed to sap any originality from whatever decision the filmmakers make regarding their conclusion. You know going into films like these the main character will either triumph or fail, but walk away with his pride intact. Roll Bounce understands this fact and uses all of its other elements to keep viewers on their toes. It’s not a plot twist movie, but it does take characters in directions you wouldn’t otherwise expect. The result is a piece that is always fun, touching, and entertaining.
The film sports a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and a clean, colorful frame. Blacks are not used very often, but provide for decent contrast when administered. The look of the film screams seventies without any frame of reference needed. I enjoyed Director Malcolm Lee’s recreation of that decade. His accuracy provides an endearing look for an endearing film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack captures background noise and dialogue with authentic amounts of intensity. The roller rink scenes are the real set-pieces here. These scenes do a great job of transforming your home theater into a mini-rink, so much that you may wish to dig your skates out of the closet once the film is over and head down to the real deal. Lastly, the bass compliments the soundtrack and score, and really brings home the wave of nostalgia Lee and company are looking for.
The film offers a generous helping of special features, including music videos, deleted scenes, Bow-Wow/Director/Producer/Writer commentaries, two making-of featurettes, and a gag reel. All of this material is light on spoilers and often very informative. It’s an honorable package, and a true “special edition.”
Roll Bounce is an encouraging comedy filled with plenty of characters to root for, and against. It’s served up with a refreshing degree of innocence, but there are moments of great poignancy. This film was a smart career choice for Bow-Wow. With more choices like this – and perhaps a name that audiences can take more seriously – he may have a promising future ahead. The disc sports terrific audio-visuals, and a loaded basket of extras – all together, a recommended purchase worth revisiting.
Special Features List
- Music Video: “Boogie Oogie Oogie” Performed by Brooke Valentine with Fabolous and Yo Yo
- 12 Deleted Scenes
- Bow Wow/Director/Producer/Writer Commentaries
- “Forward Motion Making of Roll Bounce”
- “70s Stylin’: The Look of Roll Bounce”
- Gag Reel
- And More!