A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie includes sexual references (primarily, men or boys ogling tight-dressed women), crude humor (jokes about a girl wearing braces and other boyish shenanigans), and some language (including the "N" word). As a coming of age story, the movie focuses on the ways a family copes with the recent death of the mother. Father-son tensions eventually lead to a fight, where son smashes his dad's car with a crowbar, and then tearful reconciliation.
What's the story?
It's the summer of 1978 and X (Bow Wow) and his friends spend their time at the skating rink, preparing to compete in an end-of-season skate-off, against the intimidating Sweetwater team, headed by arrogant, beloved Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan). X clashes frequently with his widowed, newly unemployed dad (Chi McBride). X turns his attention to the rink, dad finally settles for a job well beneath his experience level. The father-son drama unfolds parallel to X's own girl-distractions. As warm-up, he makes friends with Vivian's daughter Tori (Jurnee Smollett), all awkward angles and long limbs as she learns to skate and gets pelted by immature boys' water balloons. Trying to keep up with the boys, she gives back as good as she gets when they make fun of her "heavy metal" mouth full of braces. X's more serious panic sets in at Sweetwater, where he spots Naomi (Meagan Good), a girl he hasn't seen for a while, now blossomed into full-on stun mode.
Is it any good?
Lively, sweet, and yes, bouncy, ROLL BOUNCE is mostly innocuous, sometimes tedious. While the film means to be feel-good, its formulaic route to that end is often tedious. More symbolic than developed, Naomi only seems to exist at Sweetwater, where she provides pretty reaction shots as X and the boys ply their routines to music by Kool & The Gang, the Bee Gees, and Donna Summer. Naomi serves as occasion for X's crucial life lesson -- don't be mean to girls who are nice. The always engaging Jurnee Smollett is underused here, but the 1970s fashions, music, and references are sensational.
The intertwined plot points start to seem like a checklist leading to the slow-to-come denouement. Will X make it right with Naomi? Will he and dad reconcile? Will Tori be revealed as a beauty when she loses her braces? And oh my goodness, will the wisecracking, booty-ogling garbage collectors (Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy) ever find another outlet for their energies?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the death of the mother: how do father and son handle her loss differently and also similarly? Why does Curtis lie to his son (by omission) about not having a job? How does X's roller skating serve as an outlet and also a metaphor for his emotional maturation over the summer? And what about all those brand named goods all over the movie?
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