"Another funny charmer from the 'Barbershop' guys"
“Roll Bounce” aims to do for roller rinks what “Barbershop” did for barbershops (no real surprise since both films were produced by local-boys-made-good George Tillman Jr. and Bob Teitel) and for the most part, it succeeds. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel and its goings-on will probably come as a surprise to no one whose age has stretched into double digits. Instead, it is shamelessly trying to be a crowd-pleasing experience and I was a little surprised to find myself liking it as much as I did.Set in Chicago during the summer of 1978, “Roll Bounce” opens as a group of South Side teenage pals, led by Xavier (Bow Wow), mourn the passing of their local roller rink. Still consumed with the desire to skate the summer away, they decide to venture up north to the lavish Sweetwater Roller Rink (played in exteriors by Navy Pier). There, they discover a roller paradise of hot disco music, hotter disco dolls in hot pants and the malevolent Sweetness (Wesley Johnson), the rink’s very own Tony Manero who saunters in with a posse of flunkies and his own theme music. After being humiliated by Sweetness and his clique on their first visit, Xavier and his pals vow to get revenge by defeating them in an upcoming dance-off.
As they pursue girls and dreams of roller glory, “Roll Bounce” tells their misadventures in a warm and funny manner that doesn’t rely solely on jokes about outdated clothes and slang to get laughs and the young cast are a pretty appealing bunch as well. In addition, it isn’t afraid to step into more serious waters as well. Xavier’s mother passed away some time earlier and when he reconnects with an old friend-turned-hottie (Meagan Goode), it makes things a bit awkward for him. His father (Chi McBride) is not only struggling with the loss of his wife and trying to raise Xavier and his little sister by himself, but is also trying to secretly trying to keep their heads above water after losing his engineering job.If there is a flaw to the film, it is that too many of the better-known names making brief appearances (including Mike Epps, Charlie Murphy, Nick Cannon and Wayne Brady) all seem to be convinced that they are playing the scene-stealing Cedric the Entertainer part. Even so, each one does inspire a laugh or two and even with those missteps, director Malcolm Lee (whose “Undercover Brother” is another one of those films that you missed in the theater and should really catch up with on DVD) keeps things moving along at an amiable clip and manages to wind things up in a manner that isn’t completely preordained. “Roll Bounce” is a nice little slip of a film that won’t insult your intelligence and will presumably send you off to the parking lot with a smile on your face and a twitch in your hips