The generic gangstas-and-grit marketing campaign to the contrary, Chris Robinson's "ATL" is not a movie about boys and the hood. It's about boys, and girls, and the roller rink.
"ATL" -- which is hometown slang for Atlanta, Georgia -- is at its heart a coming-of-age movie about a young man's passage into self-awareness. Our narrator is a high-school senior named Rashad (Tip Harris), who's become the de facto head of his household after his parents' death in a car wreck. Rashad and his younger brother Ant (Evan Ross) live with their uncle (Mykelti Williamson), and work after-hours with him on his janitorial staff.
Rashad's only release comes on Sunday nights, when he hits the Cascade roller rink with his friends. And it's there that he falls for an alluring girl who calls herself New New (Lauren London), who gives him something to think about other than school, family and work. Unfortunately, New New arrives just as Ant starts slipping into the orbit of a local drug dealer -- played with a fine hand by Antwan Andre Patton, better known as OutKast's Big Boi.
Tina Gordon Chism's screenplay knows how old friends can knock each other around without even trying, and even surprises us once in a while, plot-wise; director Chris Robinson -- a music-video helmer making an assured feature debut -- eschews the hyperbolic showboating of a Spike Lee or a John Singleton, and gives his actors space to breathe.
The story he's telling is a familiar one, but "ATL" doesn't feel derivative, and that makes all the difference. In a perfect world, the studio's marketing campaign would have been as fresh as the movie.
Warner's enhanced-widescreen DVD features a great transfer and a modest supplemental section centered around "In the Rink," a half-hour featurette that examines the making of "ATL" through director Robinson's desire to make a "real" movie instead of an empty visual spectacle.
The disc also includes six deleted scenes and a music video for "What You Know," from star Harris under his rap handle, T.I.
STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2006
TIME: 107 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Spanish audio dub; English, French and Spanish subtitles; deleted scenes; production featurette; music video.
INTERNET SITE: atlthemovie.com