Roll Bounce

(2005) ** 1/2 Pg-13
112 min. Fox Searchlight. Director: Malcolm D. Lee. Cast: Shad 'Bow Wow' Gregory Moss, Chi McBride, Nick Cannon, Khleo Thomas, Mike Epps.

Strictly speaking, the roller-disco comedy-drama Roll Bounce isn't a good film. Its shameless family melodrama and competitive formula bring down the house in a bad way. But Roll Bounce is a pretty good movie, affectionate retro fun that coasts on soul sounds of the '70s and Cosby Kids-styled camaraderie.

With considerable charm, Bow Wow (Like Mike) plays X, a roller-skater still in mourning for his late mother. When their south-side rink closes, X and his ball-busting buddies make the haul to the north-side Sweetwater Roller Rink, where the reigning crew talks trash about wiping the floor with the south-siders in an upcoming competition with a $500 grand prize. X and friends embarrass themselves, train, and earn their props in due course, with puppy-love romance and momma-drama along the way.

Director Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother) brings energy to the euphoric skating scenes, and handles his young cast especially well (Chi McBride, as X's blustery but emotionally stunted father, overacts like he's auditioning to play Ralph Kramden). The nostalgia factor of remembered details—getting home before the street lamps turn on, bulky antenna headphones, classic video game Asteroids—should not be underestimated, and the soundtrack selections are endlessly appealing.

While pinching from Saturday Night Fever, Billy Elliot, and (gulp) You Got Served, Roll Bounce rides the edge of badness, but the good-humored friendships and impressive skating carry the day for an entertaining family movie.

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