On paper, this one sounds pretty fabulous as far as ’70s kitsch goes. Sex symbol Raquel Welch plays a single mom who tries to conquer the rough-and-tumble world of roller derby when other professional avenues prove unavailable. Kevin McCarthy, the star of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, plays the oily team owner who courts Welch and persuades her to join his roller-derby empire, spotting a potential marquee attraction. Norman Alden, the journeyman actor known for craptastic ’70s TV like Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, plays a gentle-giant skater prone to inflicting serious bodily harm when he’s not looking out for Welch’s welfare. The cast also includes Jodie Foster in an early role. But the sum of Kansas City Bomber is far less than its parts, even with some of those parts belonging to Welch. The reason is simple: The movie’s no fun. It’s actually a rather grim affair, as if the filmmakers thought the world would take a roller-derby movie starring Raquel Welch seriously. As for the star, she’s not really awful in this movie so much as just plain boring, which is disappointing because she seems sincere about demonstrating chops that she simply doesn’t have. Alden tries just as hard, but his performance as a mentally challenged individual borders on the cringe-worthy. So within this dramatic vacuum, McCarthy probably comes off best, because he at least plays the one note of his vile character effectively. The plot, standard leering stuff about predatory men who want Welch and bitchy roller-derby queens who want to put her down, would be tolerable if the action on the rink was exciting. No such luck. The sports scenes are sloppy and repetitive, without any of the crazy hair-pulling fun one might expect. Kansas City Bomber should be a permanent resident of the cinematic penalty box.
Kansas City Bomber: LAME