The young African-American gladiators in ATL flash the kind of fierce dental bling Lil’ Kim might dream about in the slammer. But the combat in this gentle ode to good pals and roller-skating nights in the bad hood is about as ferocious as a Saturday Night Fever dance-off, or as dangerous as a corporate-tie-in soundtrack album. Mostly, Rashad (rapper Tip ”T.I.” Harris) and his buddies just wanna get their skates on, hit the pinwheel- colored ’80s-style rink called Cascade, and blow off everyday agita with spectacular choreographed team routines.
The more rink time, the better: As directed by hip-hop music-video king Chris Robinson from a story by Antwone Fisher’s Antwone Fisher, the skate scenes are a blast. It’s when ATL (that’s home talk for Atlanta) attempts to be all genres to all audiences that the movie stumbles. While Rashad works out class differences with a ghetto-fab girlfriend who calls herself ”New-New” (newcomer Lauren London, playing a character based on TLC’s T-Boz) only when she sneaks out of her family’s mansion, ATL also throws in a Horatio Alger subplot and an antidrug fable featuring OutKast’s Big Boi as the local dealer big boi. Really, all we wanna do is skate, skate, skate.