Roll Bounce transcends sports-film sentimentality with some spot-on '70s period detail and a compelling portrayal of teenage camaraderie and angst. Bow Wow plays Southside Chicago roller-skating champ X (short for Xavier), who, along with his trusty band of low-rent buddies, spends the summer of '78 mourning the recent death of his mother and the closing of his local skate palace by taking his A-game uptown and sticking it to the man. Puppy love arrives in the form of Meagan Good's all-grown-up girl next door Naomi, who hooks up with the endearingly reticent X at the behest of new-girl-on-the-block Sonya (Busisiwe Irvin). Meanwhile, X's economically displaced dad (Chi McBride) learns to love again even while the memory of his late wife still stings his eyes.
At times, Roll Bounce feels as though it's one long parade of coming-of-age film clichÃs, but it gets over on the strength of Malcolm Lee's focused direction, a disarmingly irony-free script and some smart, funny performances. It's the sort of teenage summer fare that just doesn't get made that much anymore, a younger-skewing Hustle & Flow that'd rest easy on the bottom half of a Car Wash drive-in double bill. Never mind the immediately obvious comparisons to Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids ' this is the real deal, with a funky, grooving panache all its own.