Need a quick, cheap vacation from fractious NYC? You could do worse than ATL, Chris Robinson’s rambling, pleasantly benign teen drama set in south Atlanta. Short on hustle but filthy with flow, ATL follows a group of high-school seniors a few weeks before graduation. At the forefront is hyperresponsible, artistically inclined Rashad (Harris), who toils in his uncle’s janitorial business and hooks up with a girl (London) whose secret identity provides the film’s only real hook. A moneybags CEO (Keith David), a dope kingpin (Patton, a.k.a. OutKast’s Big Boi) and a pair of ghetto-fabulous twins (scene-stealing Malika and Khadijah) spice up the regional flavor.
The neighborhood’s social hub (and the movie’s narrative one), a roller-skating rink, is conspicuously absent from ATL’s ad campaign, possibly to avoid comparisons to last year’s Roll Bounce. But ATL sidesteps that film’s nostalgia-whacked pointlessness thanks to music-video vet Robinson, whose sly compositions (watch for a visual joke when David makes a toast in a country club) and ease with his largely tyro cast complement the laconic screenplay by Tina Gordon Chism (from a story by Antwone Fisher), who clearly never met a tangent she didn’t like. ATL may lack surprises and standout scenes, but its respect for its characters’ dilemmas and warm hometown pride are as refreshing as a weekend out of town. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Mark Holcomb