Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roller Town (2012)

Seen: On netflix instant, on my laptop.

When I was in Toronto last year I had the pleasure of seeing a test screening of Roller Town, a film I knew nothing about except for its awesome tagline: "Disco didn't die. It was MURDERED." And that it was the first feature from Canadian sketch comedy group Picnicface, whose now-cancelled show never made it to the US but whose youtube videos had some wide play when I was in college. Due to the nature of the preview I couldn't write about Roller Town, and it KILLED me because I really wanted to talk about it, and now finally it's made it to netflix instant in the US! And I watched it right away, obviously! Set in some sort of alternate universe where everything revolves around roller skating, the movie stars Mark Little as Leo, a well-meaning skater who must save his dead father's roller rink from the likes of Gregs (George Basil), a murderous gangster who wants to turn it into an arcade. Leo also tries to romance Julia (Kayla Lorette), a student at a prestigious skating school (and the mayor's daughter), who is torn between his loose, exciting disco world and her pretentious asshole boyfriend/family.

Ok so be aware that I have yet to see the kind of roller disco movies this one is parodying, I need to get on that. That being said, Roller Town cracks me right up whether or not I'm familiar with the context, since everything is sparkly and smiley and self-aware. It is SO goofy, SO nonsensical, and SO weirdly endearing that there's little I can do except sit back and giggle quietly for 80 minutes. I'm a little bit in love with Mark Little, and not just because our last names are almost the same and on twitter I always for a second think his name is my name. He's really damned adorable as Leo, unabashedly skating around in hot pants with a doofy look on his face. Everyone in the cast is fantastic, really, with Scott Vrooman nailing the elitist but totally hapless character of Davis, and Kayla Lorette getting in some excellent reaction faces. Cheryl Hann is fun in multiple roles, but my favorite bit is her one scene as a slightly crazed dance teacher.

The humor is sort of ditzy and irreverent, and slightly surreal, with a range of bizarre sight gags and incredibly silly conversations. This eclecticism keeps things interesting, but also leads to jokes that don't work (at least for me) and action that drags by the end despite the film's short runtime. It takes this turn in the final act that could have been funny, but just slows everything down and doesn't fit in with the rest of the story. But due to its short length, there isn't much time to really screw things up, and overall I'd say I'm a fan! Through it all we are treated to the discolicious music of the fictional Boogaloos in glittery musical interludes, and actually I think a big fault of the film is that it didn't end with a disco musical number. MY GOD IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PERFECT.

But oh well, I still really enjoy Roller Town. I want to watch it again and again, despite the little things that don't work, because there are so many parts that do.


Pair This Movie With: Well I can only assume something like Roller Boogie or Skatetown, USA would go well with this, but not having seen them I'm not actually sure. I pretty much just watched a bunch of Picnicface videos on youtube the first time I watch this. Alternatively, you could make it a sketch comedy troupe movie day with something like Brain Candy or Wet Hot American Summer. So many choices!