ROLL BOUNCE (Malcolm D. Lee). 112 minutes. Opens Friday (September 23). For venues and times, see MovieListings. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Bow Wow owes his agent a serious fruit basket for hooking him up to play the lead in Roll Bounce . It's a perfect showcase for the former child rapper's comedic knack and dramatic chops.
Set in the late 70s -- when the perfect vehicle was a four-wheeled hightop sneaker -- Malcolm D. Lee 's film tracks the skates of Xavier (Bow Wow) and his runty friends as they come of age while striving for first prize at the roller rink. Girls, afros, disco, Atari -- what could be better?
Life doesn't always roll and bounce in Xavier's favour, though. His mother died last year, and his father (played with touching stern/sensitive duality by Chi McBride ) is having a rough time adjusting, triggering a ripple effect that leads a teary-eyed Xavier to bust up the car with a baseball bat in front of Dad. You might want to cry, too.
The sadness is balanced by an incredibly witty script delivered by a hilarious cast. Bow Wow's buddies snap yo-mommas on each other in nimble banter as authentically 70s as the costumes. Comedians Mike Epps and Charlie Murphy (Eddie's brother, of Chappelle's Show), as garbagemen, could floor you by just standing there, and Nick Cannon is in his hammy element as the narcissistic rink pimp Sweetness.