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The Chicago Traveler

Friday Film: Roll Bounce

by Matt B on June 20th, 2008

One of the things that I never quite got the hang of was skating, in any form. One of my first experiences was actually at a roller rink not too far from where I live now. Some of you locals may remember the Rainbo, which had a long history in entertainment. (It's since been torn down and turned into condos' of course.) I suppose the rink was no longer as popular as it once was, but in the late '70s, disco roller-dancing was huge, and Roll Bounce is a light-hearted flashback to that era.

Roll Bounce (2005)
Directed by: Michael D. Lee
Produced by: Robert Teitel
George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Bow Wow
Chi McBride
Wesley Jonathan
Jurnee Smollett
Meagan Good
Mike Epps
Nick Cannon
Paul Wesley
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
All Movie Guide

Set in 1978 Chicago, the film follows Xavier Smith (Bow Wow) who has recently lost his mother to a heart condition. Known as 'X' to his friends, he and his buddies are well-known for their skills at the local Palisades Gardens, a neighborhood South Side roller rink. However, once the rink closes down, the group heads uptown to the ritzier Sweetwater Roller Rink, where they feel like fish out of water. This rink has its own hotshot roller-dancer 'Sweetness' (Wesley Jonathan) and crew, the quintessential plot antagonists.

'X' doesn't much care for the new scene, but when he sees 'Sweetness' do his thing on the floor, 'X' wants his thunder back. He and his friends enter the big Skate-Off, in the hopes of winning $500. But the Skate-Off isn't the only reason 'X' travels up to the North Side after he encounters Naomi (Meagan Good).

The movie was set and shot here in Chicago and the surrounding area. 'Palisades Gardens' is actually Fleetwood Roller Rink, located in the town of Summit, and 'Sweetwater Roller Rink' is the Lynwood Sport Center in Lynwood. The latter has actually retained some of the props from the movie, including a large neon sign saying 'Sweetwater'.

I didn't find the flick to be incredibly moving or impressive, but it was fun. It's just an enjoyable look at urban culture and youth in the 1970s. And I assume the flashback to the disco era is much more appreciated by those who actually remember it.

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POSTED IN: Entertainment, Filmed in Chicago

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