Urban Cinefile
"Let me tell you: it's easy to pretend to be in love with Cameron Diaz"  -Ewan McGregor on A Life Less Ordinary
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday June 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



The year is 1978. Palisades Garden roller skating rink in a Chicago working class 'burb is shutting its boards after 25 years and the boyz in da' hood are forced to rock 'n' roll down to the swanky Southside rink where the bros look down on da' cats from uptown. X (Bow Wow) is leader of da' pack, because dat's all he has since his Momma died leaving his Pappy (Chi McBride) with a double dose of the miseries. Still, X's disciples are loyal and become an instant team when the Garden Boys compete in a $500 skate-off with Southside's main attraction, a cool cat named Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan) and his boys.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
When Fox tossed up whether to release this cliché cluttered ghetto comedy and the coin fell between the cracks they must have decided to sneak it out anyway, thinking that it might be the only way to get their money back. It seems their optimism is misplaced for here is a movie that might only appeal to dudes on wheels...those not currently sprawled over the shopping mall; those not still in traction after a hang-up on a hand-rail...the numbers diminish daily.

The funny thing is, I found myself warming to it ever so shamefacedly...not that I could un-bamboozle the blithering rap-speak or give a damn whether brother Bow Wow ever made pow-wow with Meagan Good, the voluptuous bad-acting beauty who is hot for the willowy skater jock. Things never get really serious.

The film waves a feather-duster at the racial divisions which still raged at the time (1978); there's a hint of homophobia directed at Sweetness and the sequined sycophants at his side and director Lee includes many a tight-shot of tight-asses in snug-hugging gear. But the film throbs on the beat of the Bee Gees and the bop of hip-hop. It has a free-flowing energy and it's clear that Bow Wow, the teenage rap artist who started rhyming at the age o'three - who already has his own clothing line (Shago) and is dating pop star Ciara - has charisma and some kind of acting talent. Clever editing makes it seem that he is doing all his own stunts.

Bow Wow's big scene, contrived as it is, comes when he chucks a jalopy-smashing hissy-fit after catching his woebegone dad at a lie; his better scenes come when the flick takes a sentimental swan-dive over the memory of X's deceased mom, which actually lifts the film a notch or two and takes a turn for the unpredictable. This is the 40th "skating movie" to hit the screens since Charlie Chaplin's The Rink (1915). It is neither the best nor the worst of them - skater dudes may think its cool, but 25 years ago there was the much maligned Xanadu with ELO, ONJ and (sigh!) still the best skating scenes I've ever seen.

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

(US, 2005)

CAST: Bow Wow, Wesley Jonathan, Brandon T. Jackson, Marcus T. Paulk, Rick Gonzalez, Khleo Thomas, Chi McBride, Busisiwe Irvin, Jurnee Smollett, Kellita Smith, Mike Epps, Chi McBride

PRODUCER: Robert Teitel, George Tillman Jr.

DIRECTOR: Malcolm D. Lee

SCRIPT: Norman Vance Jr.


EDITOR: George Bowers

MUSIC: Stanley Clarke

PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Elliot, William A. Elliott

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 8, 2005

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020