Roll Bounce &
Hard Goodbyes: My Father
Set in the 1970s when the flashy art of jam skating was all the rage, Roll Bounce spins an engaging, imperfect coming of age tale about Xavier “X” (the charming teen heartthrob Bow-Wow), a nice kid from Chicago’s South Side, and his beleaguered dad, Curtis (the terrific Chi McBride). It’s a good family film, despite some plotting missteps.
Moody Xavier spends most of his time skating with his pals. When their favorite rink closes, they are forced to shift to Sweetwater, an awesome rink on the North Side, where the boys are ridiculed and snubbed. The rink also is home to the Afro styled Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan) flanked by his all-male entourage in iridescent garb.
Sweetness is such a dreamboat that he makes Xavier’s kid sister swoon. After their first put-down, the boys swear they’ll get even by entering the rink’s annual skate-off dominated by Sweetness.
At home, Xavier, who is having trouble coping with the death of his mother—she encouraged his skating—is also resentful of his dad who has his own secret. He’s been jobless for months, but dresses each morning in office attire and pretends to go to work. Xavier and Curtis have two heartbreaking exchanges. Here the picture goes off track, shifting focus from skating to sadness.
Director Malcolm D. Lee could have spent more time showing the kids practicing and learning their terrific competition routine. The actors astonish on skates.
Love interests also threaten to derail the skating plot. Xavier befriends a cute new neighborhood girl Tori (the adorable Jumee Smollett) and reconciles with Naomi (Meagan Good) and Tori’s single Mother becomes Curtis’s new flame.
On the wide screen, the skating routines (expertly choreographed by Kishaya Dudley) are eye stopping and retro score is right-on. (PG-13; 113 minutes)
Also recommended: Hard Goodbyes: My Father is an engrossing father-son film. Here the theme is how a freak accident kills a father and the exceptionally bright 10-year-old son, who cherished his dad, invents ways to keep his him alive. Ironically, he admits the truth on the day Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon—an event he planned to experience with his father. (Not rated; 113 minutes, in Greek with English subtitles).#