It’s 1978, and Xavier Smith, known simply as X to his friends and family, loves to roller-skate. Along with his friends Boo, Naps, Junior and Mike, he “skate jams” at the local roller rink—until it goes out of business. The guys are then forced to skate at the Sweetwater Roller Rink on the other end of town. That’s when they learn that they’re seriously outclassed. Not only is the rink much nicer than what they’re used to, but its clientele wears funkier clothes and fancier skates.
More important, it’s home to Sweetness, a skater who put the ooh in cool, a man so smooth he only has to show up to set the girls to swooning. Sweetness and his crew are the undisputed champs of Sweetwater’s annual skating competition, and they don’t appreciate X and his low-rent friends crowding the floor. Feeling seriously disrespected, X and Co. decide there's only one thing to do: earn some respect by winning the skate-off.
Despite tensions that result from unresolved grief over a death in the family, X, his father and sister love and support one another through thick and thin. X’s dad is willing to take a job far below his abilities in order to support his family. Despite some intense teasing among the friends, they remain true to one another, too. They do not let the taunts of Sweetness and his supporters intimidate them, nor do they let other’s opinions determine how they live their lives.
Once they resolve to enter the competition, X and his friends work hard to get down their routine. When X becomes frustrated at his failure to master a skating technique, a friend says, “If you don’t fall, how will you know what getting up feels like?” It’s good, all-round advice for X and his young friends.
A man says that he was so poor he got kicked out of his church because he had no money for the collection plate. While reminiscing about his deceased mother, X says that God must have liked his family for giving her to them. In a later scene, though, he cries and asks plaintively, “Why did God take my mom?” When a man turns down a beer at a party, the host says, “What, are you a Jehovah’s Witness?”
An unfortunate number of sexual innuendoes and near-constant ogling of female forms mar this film. Indeed, the camera often lingers on various female posteriors, and several female skaters wear low-cut tops and skin-tight short shorts.
Two garbage men stand agog as a woman in a low-cut halter top carries her garbage can to the curb—in slow-mo. A boy who has carried the garbage to the curb in his underwear is told to “check your package.” As a prank, Sweetness pulls down Boo’s pants, exposing his purple underwear; Boo is then teased for wearing such skivvies. During a skating routine Sweetness rips off his shirt, causing teen girls (and a few adult women) to swoon and scream. X and Naomi kiss passionately, as do Junior and Tori. A skating rink employee seems to be always making out with his girlfriend. A male skater wearing extremely tight pants is said to look “fruity.”
Boo mistakenly thinks the Bee Gees are a form of venereal disease that will cause one’s private parts to “fall off.” The man handing out rental skates makes a sly innuendo about foot size being related to sexual prowess. With that suggestion, Naps loudly asks for size 15 skates as several nearby girls giggle. A man says of a woman in a leopard-print pantsuit, “I’d like to hammer that cat woman.” The boys slap Tori on her rear. The Donna Summers song “Love to Love You, Baby” plays, complete with orgasmic moans. There's a joke about male prostitutes.
X vents his grief at his mother’s death by smashing up her car with a baseball bat. A few skaters push and shove one another.
Crude or Profane Language
Two uses each of the euphemisms “mutha-sucker” and “mo-fo.” The s-word is spoken three times and mouthed once. Nearly 10 uses each of “d---” and “a--.“ The word “h---” is spoken four times and appears once in print on a boy’s shirt. Two uses of “n-gga.” God’s name is used twice as an epithet.
Drug and Alcohol Content
X’s dad declines a beer at a party. Other people at the party hold beers or alcoholic drinks.
Other Negative Elements
X’s dad at first lies implicitly to his children and neighbors by going to work in a three-piece suit with a briefcase, even though he holds a janitor’s position. X makes an obscene gesture. A man says a friend became so frightened, “He went No. 2 on himself.” Some of the boys’ teasing is harsh, especially when they refer to a girl as an “ug-mug” and say they must observe a moment of silence because of her face. A boy says, “We were so poor, we didn’t have a pot to p--- in.” X is unconcerned that the newspapers he delivers sometimes land in water or the bushes instead of the driveway or porch. A boy says he’s happy his mom got her tubes tied.
Roller jams. Disco music. Big ‘fros and bigger bellbottoms. Disco music. Dazzling skating sequences. Disco music. And lots of positive lessons on relationships, perseverance and peer pressure. Roll Bounce is essentially Rocky on wheels, a coming-of-age story of underdogs bucked up by the power of family and friendship, overcoming a challenge and learning something about themselves along the way. It's too bad, then, that these super-slick '70s sensations have to go and ruin everything by being so preoccupied with sex and exhibiting such a propensity toward profanity.