Review by Tom Cappello
Four friends are just hanging out at the Waffle House discussing
life and chasing girls. During these moments, ATL is at its best
as a film about the bond of friendship and family and is reminiscent
of the coming of age tale, Diner (Barry Levinson, 1982).
The main difference is the characters in ATL are African
American high school kids growing up on the south side of Atlanta
under different socio-economic conditions and pressures. Fortunately,
their worries and concerns in life are provided an outlet in the
form of a pair of roller skates that roll to the energy and thump
of hip-hop and rap music every Sunday night at the 1980s-infused,
neon-lit Cascade Roller Rink.
Tip "T.I." Harris plays Rashad, the emotional core of
the story who is a big brother not only to his wayward little brother,
Ant (Antoine, played by Evan Ross, son of Diana Ross), but to all
Mr. Harris seems poised to emerge as the next great rapper turned
actor, but regrettably his natural, organic presence in the film
plays against the clichés that find their way into the plot.:
- Young teen (Ant) can't say no to pushing drugs for
- High school girl (Rashad's girlfriend New New, played
by Lauren London) looks for her roots on the other side of the
tracks, and loses her man by being dishonest about her true silver
- Ambitious teen learns that success is not worth selling
out and decides to stay true to his roots.
And in the end, everyone learns that life cannot be forgotten every
Sunday night at the skating rink.
There is no denying the directorial talent of Chris Robinson that
is displayed during the visually inspired, perfectly choreographed
skating sequences, and in the strong performance he pulls out of
his young actors. It is just a shame that these compelling characters
and fun sequences get lost in the heavy handed plot, energy-draining
voice over, and trite ending where all the divergent storylines
tie neatly together.
The ATL has a strong sense of place ripe for a coming of
age drama where life is hard and dreams are difficult to keep alive.
Unfortunately, this film full of real moments gets lost in an unreal,
tidy ending. These characters deserve more time in the ATL
to just hang at the Waffle House, Cascade, and the city pool allowing
real life drama to unfold naturally in a more convincing fashion.
here for more information about the film, ATL.