ROLL BOUNCE Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 2005 Film Length: 111 minutes Genre: Comedy-Drama Aspect Ratio: [*] 2.35:1 enhanced widescreen Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 5.1 Surround Subtitles: English & Spanish Film Rating: PG-13 Release Date: December 13, 2005. Film Rating: / Starring: Bow Wow (Xavier “X”), Brandon T. Jackson (Junior), Marcus T. Paulk (Boo), Rick Gonzalez (Naps), Khleo Thomas (Mixed Mike), Chi McBride (Curtis), Jurnee Smollett (Tori), Wesley Jonathan (Sweetness) Written by: Norman Vance Jr. Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee If there was one film that was a definite “blink and you’ll miss it” in 2005 it was Roll Bounce. That didn’t surprise me though because I can’t imagine that anyone wanted to see the movie. There was an adequate amount of publicity for the film. Commercials were on many television stations during the right time of day. What I think went wrong was the T.V. Spot: it made the movie look uninteresting. That was my impression of Roll Bounce when the movie hit the theatres, in fact, the movie seemed like a stupid idea and a waste of time. After watching this DVD I was clearly wrong. Roll Bounce is set in the late 1970’s and follows the story of five Chicago high school pals who are ready to enjoy their summer off at the local roller skating rink. Each friend has a distinguishing quality about them that they tease each other over. Knowing this information is a great ice breaker to for the audience to get to know the characters. There’s also a new girl in town too and Xavier brings her into the group. To start the summer rolling off with the wrong foot, the local rink closes down and now they have to try a new rink 30 minutes away from where they live. This place, Sweetwater Roller Rink, is bigger and better but good enough to let these talented boys do their thing. While they have their fun the party is crashed; the new girl Tori feels a little jealous when a past girl-interest of Xavier appears at the rink; and the boys are also introduced to Sweetness – an ego maniac roller skating icon of Sweetwater Roller Rink. He and his troupe of “Sweetwater Rollers” take over the building when they arrive. They see no room for other rollers but the crowd doesn't seem to mind. The facts that they’ve won the Sweetwater Skate-off five years straight has idolized them. These guys are no big deal to the boys of course – until the day these Rollers challenge them. With practice and patience, they work together with a victory in mind. The story builds to an unpredictable ending on many levels with several characters. Finally an ending that is both unpredictable and satisfying! This is a charming comedy-drama that covers different sub-plots. While the roller skating plot is introduced in the beginning of the film, the middle of the movie covers Xavier’s life at other angles. We learn that his mother died years ago and he’s still angry about it. She valued his skating while his father doesn’t. His father is a wonderful and supporting man, but he doesn’t see the importance of his son’s passion. There are many emotional scenes and awkward moments between Xavier and his father and the film covers father-son relationships and struggles, the ordeals of growing up as well as the difficulties for single-fathers raising a family. The movie delivers it with gracefulness and does so intelligently because of the good story writing and the time devoted on screen to explaining as much as possible without tiring the audience. Not once did the film feel slow. It was perfect despite the fact the film appears built to easily cut out any subplot if audiences reacted negatively to it. Roll Bounce could have been just another useless comedy (as it was advertised as), yet the final product is a very good comedy-drama. VIDEO QUALITY / The image has problems with depth and detail. When comparing it to other DVDs of films of 2005, it appears flat, fuzzy, and undefined. Perhaps the intention was to give it a slight nostalgic ‘70s feel when watching it, but it didn’t appear that way. If that was the case then the audio should have been 1.0 mono. Regardless, details aren’t made out very well; for example, when looking at the faces of the garbage men from a distance there is no detail to see on the faces at all. It just comes across as a blob on shoulders. The 2.35:1 image is also fairly clean of digital grittiness, although I’ll say it’s not perfect either. Edge enhancement also appears to be used far more than I’ve seen than many movies to date. It doesn’t appear in every scene, but when bodies are contrasted with bright backgrounds it’s noticeable. Can you guess I’m not very impressed with the picture quality of this film? AUDIO QUALITY / The soul music soundtrack is what drives the beat of the film into the 1970s nostalgia of the couples’ skate. Its pleasant music that gets the foot tapping as you watch the movie and will make you want to head out to a roller rink if one exists in your area. The audio for this film is encoded in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The reality is this film has a (99%) 5.0 soundrack. My Mirage BPS-400 that provides the bass for the LFE channel turned on once during the whole film – and that was at the 1h21m moment in the film. Beyond this, it never turned on again. I sometimes criticize the Mirage for not being sensitive enough in its auto turn-on position as well as turning off too soon after there is no signal, but LFE information is not a big player in this film. On the other hand, for those of you using bass management to send the bass from the main channels to the sub, there will be plenty of bass in this case. All of the bass from the music is naturally where it belongs: in the front channels. Those of you who set your main channels to “Large” and have speakers capable of low frequency response will enjoy the music’s bass coming from the main channels only. Dialogue is well recorded and limited to the center channel. It’s integrated nicely into the soundstage and doesn’t sound out of connection with the rest of the soundtrack. Surround levels provide a bit of ambience to extend the front soundstage, although many times I don’t think they were loud enough to provide enough effectiveness. In terms of the dynamics of the soundtrack, it is fairly flat with just a little too much emphasis in the midrange. The differences between soft sounds and loud ones aren’t that great either. This is an average soundtrack, but good enough to make the movie enjoyable. SPECIAL FEATURES / Three audio commentaries are included. The first one is a director’s commentary featuring Malcolm D. Lee solo. The next one includes Lee as well as actors Bow Wow and Mike Epps, and the third one features writer Norman Vance Jr. and producer Robert Teitel. All three cover the story of the film, the direction of it, the characters, etc. It’s good to see a wide range of participants on these commentaries as well so we can hear about this film from various people involved. Over 20 minutes of deleted scenes are included and feature optional commentary by Malcolm D. Lee and Norman Vance Jr. You can pick these scenes independently or play all of them at once. In the commentaries we are told where some scenes are inserted, but beyond that there isn’t much indication. They appear to be from a composite video source because it’s plagued with noise, dot crawl, and moiré. They are in their 2.35:1 aspect ratio but are not widescreen enhanced. In fact, none of the features on this disc are enhanced for widescreen displays. This really sucks because for those of us who have displays that lock aspect ratios when inputting progressive scan images (or like myself when my projector locks aspect ratios when using an HDMI connection), we have to go into the DVD players set-up menu and activate a “squeeze mode” that will allow 4:3 to be properly viewed. This is annoying for me despite having no problems figuring out how to do this, but I don’t even want to imagine the frustration it gives users who don’t have the know-how to or the desire to figure this out. I’d say that is 98% DVD of users with this aspect ratio locking problem. Also on this disc is a 4-minute Bow Wow profile as well as a 4-minute featurette on the ’70s Styling: The Look of Roll Bounce. It’s a quick look at the nostalgic styling of the era and how the actor’s liked working with it. Another featurette is titled [/b]Forward Motion: The Making of Roll Bounce[/b]. It’s a little longer timing at about 13 minutes. It’s also not that informative because it’s a summery of the movie from interviews with the actors and clips of the film dispersed throughout. It’s more of a promotional piece and it also has some interview clips that we’ve already seen in the other two featurettes…yaaaawwwnnn… One slightly interesting featurette is the Skating Competition News wraps. It features the preliminaries as well as the finals of skating groups from across the country. It isn’t explained at all, so I’m assuming these are the skaters competing to be the “extras” skating in the contest in the film. I would have liked to see more skating in this featurette but instead the competitors are talking to the camera among the stadium noise. It’s about 6 minutes in all. Don’t forget to check out the 10-minute gag reel as well the Boogie Oogie Oogie Brook Valentine with Fabulous + YoYo music video. Does anyone use real names anymore? There is also a Music Soundtrack Spot as well as the theatrical trailer (that is in 1.85:1 and not widescreen enhanced – typical of Fox). Not surprisingly, the TV spots for this film are not here. I don’t know if this was an intentional omission, but it was those bad publicity spots that never wanted me to see this movie in the first place. Once again, I’m glad I was proven wrong. IN THE END… If there is a lesson to be learned for the studios, the quality of TV Spots during the advertising campaign for a film is very important. The fact that I was shocked to see how good Roll Bounce was after having such a bad impression of the film because of it’s TV spots shows the importance of good advertising and the messages it tries to send out. I would have never given this enlightening movie a spin if it didn’t choose to review it. I’m glad I did because it has been one of the more delighting movies I’ve seen in a while. Despite the PG-13 rating, this film is more than appropriate for a PG crowd. I do warn you though; you will feel like roller skating after watching this movie. I am disappointed that the Roller Gardens in my area has been long closed down. At least I had the opportunity to enjoy the couples’ skate with my first girlfriend. While she isn’t around anymore the memories still are – and it’s the memories this film will give you that will make you enjoy it the most. Michael Osadciw January 2, 2006.