If comedy is tragedy plus time, a satire of the cultural immolation that is the 1970’s is long overdue. From tacky flare trousers and ridiculously wide neckties, to disco music and roller rinks, the 70’s was, for the most part, a time of oblivious cheese and corn. The Canadian comedy, Roller Town, attempts to satirize that era, but instead of being sharp or witty, its scattershot skit-show approach leaves much to be desired and ultimately falls into the same kitsch.
In a time and place where he never has to take off his skates, Mark Little is Leo, a hotshot roller rink virtuoso who secretly wants to get into the roller-skating version of Julliard. One night, at the eponymous Roller Town, he meets a girl named Julia (Kayla Lorette), who’s in said school but secretly wants to be a hotshot roller rink virtuoso. Living in a sort of Footloose world, the two must face the impending threat of a disco ban, brought on by Julia’s mayor dad, a bunch of posh thugs, and a mob of video-arcade pushers.
To be sure, the movie was made with tongue firmly in cheek. Brought to you by the Canadian comedy troupe known as Picnicface, Roller Town exudes a shoddy, tinpot sensibility with crude and random humour. Like an episode of SCTV stretched to 80 minutes, there isn’t a lot attention paid to narrative cohesion or characterization; instead, much of the focus in put on the jokes, which often feel improvised.
A movie that will knowingly tell a bad joke on purpose (i.e. “my mother died before I was born”), Roller Town begs for a laugh in every which way but good writing; like if the people of Saturday Night Live decided to make Saturday Night Fever with the same wink and a nudge sarcasm as the show. Relying a little too much on context and irony, those already ingratiated with the Picnicface phenomenon will appreciate the movie’s often non sequitur nature, but for those who aren’t, or don’t really want to, Roller Town is just a bit too untenable.