Stroll Down Memory Lane: Roll Bounce

You thought I was going to use a picture of Bow Wow, didn’t you? Nope! This movie was about Sweetness and his crew!

I have to be completely honest here. I watched this movie more than 100 times in the matter of months. I had a problem and I admit that. It was a movie packed with a bunch of my favorite people and, dare I say it, this was one of Shad Moss’ greatest acting performances. I don’t know if I can think of another movie where he was better. (Don’t any of you dare say Tokyo Drift.)

Roll Bounce is a story of a crew of friends and skaters whose favorite hangout, a skating rink called “The Garden,” closes down, forcing them to continue their summer skating downtown at “Sweetwater.” Of course when they get there, they aren’t on top like they were on their own home turf so a battle has to ensue.

What they did well here was the integration of the various storylines. Norman Vance Jr. did a great job writing this story and making sure all the things made sense. Was this an Oscar winning movie? No, but the movie made you feel for every character you met. Now, I would have loved to learn a little more about each character. Maybe get a better backstory on how the crew came to be, but overall, it was perfect the way it was.

I think what’s most endearing about this film is the relationship building. From the relationship between Junior and Tori all the way to the relationship between Xavier and his sister, each relationship was cultivated in a way that was so real and pure. One of my absolute favorite scenes….well, I have a couple I’ll discuss in a minute. Most of us have siblings and can understand how annoying it is when your sibling decides to bother you in the middle of the night when you are dead tired. We see this with Xavier and his little sister, Sonya. As much as his sister gets on his nerves, he allows this small child to crawl into bed with him when she cannot sleep in her own bed due to a bad dream. She then has the nerve to want to talk to him after he allows her in. Scoots over and everything, y’all. What makes this sense special is the fact that Sonya asks her brother to tell her about her mother, a mother who died when Sonya was little. X tells a beautiful story about their mom not being able to sing. After a few minutes, Sonya is fast asleep, although X was poised to tell another story.

Another one of those touching scenes happened at Vivian’s house party. The women at the party inform Vivian of what happened to Curtis’ wife. Now, if you recall, Vivian and Curtis did not get off on the right foot due to the fact that Curtis took the kids across town to got to Sweetwater to skate without her permission even though her daughter did leave a note. This scene is about small details. Chi McBride is a phenomenal actor and you can see how out of place he feels without his wife. Kelita Smith, who plays Vivian, is equally phenomenal, and you can see her entire demeanor change and her realize that she could have been nicer the days before.

Here’s a scene I love….the fall scene. We all have our jokes about Nick Cannon, but when he explains to X as Bernard, or B Nard as he tells the boys when they first meet him, that if you don’t fall, how will you know what getting up is like. That hit deep. Cut to the montage of him trying the trick he saw Merv continuously fail at. Some of us love when the underdog gets to claim victory at the end of a film, but it’s something about not getting to win that makes the impact of the message of the film that much more so. To see him fall and lose in theaters broke my heart, but the respect he gained for trying, even though he didn’t succeed, lessened the blow.

Let’s talk about that car smashing scene. Because I was a fanatic, I watched not only the movie itself but the cast and director’s commentary. I know more about the behind the scenes of this film than I should I apologize for that in advance. What I learned from the director’s commentary is that McBride gave Moss some sound advice for the scene. He told him it would be better if they didn’t interact with each other before they filmed that scene. So when you see that scene play out, McBride and Moss have not spoken to each other for hours or even days but have seen each other around set. I believe Moss also put himself in a kind of “abandoned child” mode. If you recall, X lost his mom a few years before we see the kids now. His mom was always the biggest supporter of his dreams and him just being a kid. His dad, on the other hand, is an engineer, and in my opinion, doesn’t really understand what it means to just run through the streets as a kid with your friends. He values that X has a paper route more than him being the greatest skate on the block. I guess, for X, his dreams never mattered to his father, but they meant something to his mother and that meant the world to him. When she died, he was left with his father, who was still droning on and on about responsibilities. Also, we’ve seen Mr. Curtis (their last name is Smith but I like that the kids call him Mr. Curtis) feverishly work on this old car, which we learn later is his wife’s car. He even goes as far as to sell his favorite car to continue to support the household. The anger, and teenage angst, build and we get a wonderful scene filled with a smashed car, yelling, emotion, and a round of applause. Later, the moment comes full circle when Curtis buys him new skates, since the ones his mom got him have been literally falling apart on his feet, and comes to cheer him on in the competition.

I think what drew me to this film is rooted in the fact that it is a movie about friends and family, the two most important things to me in my own life. It was also summertime fun with black kids in Chicago in the 70’s. There was laughter, emotion, rivalry, and a community of people who both loved and hated these kids getting on their nerves in the summer. Also, Sweetness is self explanatory. I also knew his theme music because my grandma had a Johnny “Guitar” Watson tape at the house, and what do you do when you get bored and your grandma doesn’t have cable? You play her tapes…because bored.

What’s your favorite scene from the movie? When was the last time you watched Roll Bounce?

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