It is terribly unfortunate that Roll Bounce came and went to the theater without much notice. It is unfortunate, because it is the kind of film that people should be watching today. It is a heartwarming, life affirming film about five boyhood friends who want to do nothing more than be able to skate (roller not in line) at their favorite roller rink.
The time is somewhere around 1978 and the boys are all black. It's a black film right? Wrong!
The script is not unique in its overall direction, because we've seen similar in Saturday Night Fever and Rocky. While the roller skating could be equated with the dancing from S N Fever, the emotional context of this film share far more in line with Rocky.
The race of the characters has nothing to do with the film and yet it has everything to do with the film. Huh?
It has nothing to do with the film, because the characters are real, living and breathing people with real problems. And yet, there is no discussion of drugs, gangs, or guns. Oh there's a sexual aspect to the film, but of the "wholesome" variety. We see how young boys react to looking at beautiful girls and how men deal with being "on the market" to single women. It's funny and charming, not base or purile.
Race has everything to do with this film too, because it demonstrates that a film made by and for the black community doesn't have to rely on four letter words, sex, drugs, gangs, and guns to be good (Not one pimp or prostitute is present). It demonstrates that films of social significance can be made highlighting the best parts of the black community not the worst.
So what's it about?
Xavier - or X as his friends call him (Bow Wow) and his buddies are all avid roller skaters. Unfortunately their hangout - a roller rink - gets closed down. They must now travel to the north side of town, which is more white than their side of town. None of these boys are poor, but they don't come from wealthy families either - they're middle class. Yet when they arrive at the north side roller rink, many of the people there, including other black folks, treat them like trash. This is cause for the conflict in the film - rather than act like thugs, they do the Hollywood thing and challenge each other to a roller skating contest.
Their is a human element at work in this film that is leaps and bounds above most others. The boys rag on each other and talk bad about each other's mothers. It's all in good fun - and it's a heck of a lot of fun for us too. It's a drama with lots of comic touches - but first and foremost it's a roller skating film done the way they should have been when they were first made - actually back in the 1970's.
X's father (Chi McBride) is a highly educated man, but, in part, due to his race, he cannot get a decent job and is forced to take demeaning work in order to support his children (another emotional link in this film is that X's mother has recently passed away and no one has yet faced this reality fully).
The skating is dynamite and is fun to watch. The acting is top notch. Who knew that Bow Wow was as good an actor as he is?!
You can't miss with this film folks. I guarantee you'll like it.
It's as refreshing as anything you're likely to see in a very long time.