The sports genre takes on a new form in Drumline, as competitive band-playing takes center stage. Nick Cannon and Orlando Jones star in this shaky yet ultimately entertaining teen drama that suffers from cliché after cliché but benefits from some truly impressive musical numbers.
Cannon stars as Devon, a boy who has made it to college on his drumming capabilities. Basically, he is one of the best in the business, but like so many of the best, he is a little cocky and not interested in taking directions from anyone, including his band leaders. Despite his shortcomings, it is apparent that his new school is in desperate need of his skills, as they are looking to reclaim a title lost to a nearby college. The band director (Orlando Jones) is a traditionalist and does not like appealing to younger, livelier crowds, though his job is threatened by yet another loss. Can the band succeed?
Well, like all sports movies, Drumline ultimately comes down to a face-off against the rival school. Like all sports movies, the outcome is fairly predictable, as is the rest of the movie.
But a sports movie, you say? Drumline is about a school's marching band, but it is obvious from the looks of things that these marching bands are taken very seriously in the south, where the film is based. The movie has everything that a normal sports movie has, only without the specific athletics.
Unfortunately, it was hard to relate to these marching bands as sports teams, or even competitive teams. The movie seems like it is trying to imitate Remember the Titans at times, featuring extended sequences of the band training in the summer months. It looks more difficult than boot camp, and it is hard for someone like me to fathom that this is what actually happens. Regardless of whether this is reality or not, a lot of the film - and how serious this is all taken - seems a little cheesy. No offense is meant to competitive band members, but it has to be accepted that some people just won't understand this form of musical competition.
The movie also suffers from predictability. It is obvious that Devon's love interest (Zoe Saldana) will change her major at the end because up until she met "our hero," she has been pressured by her parents to do something more secure, and it suffers from many other things that can be guessed half an hour ahead of time.
Furthermore, at times the dialogue is just cheesy, especially when coming from the likes of Orlando Jones. I am sorry, but I will always and forever see him as "The 7-Up Guy." The entire movie I was waiting for him to crack a joke, but instead he walks around acting all serious. His character is bland to say the best, and a poor rip-off of many other characters.
Cannon's performance is better, though he acts so childish through half the film that it is hard to really warm up to him. Nonetheless, he does a good enough job to draw the audience in and make them root for him.
Surprisingly, despite all of the movie's shortcomings, Drumline is pretty entertaining and engaging. It stumbles at a few parts but for the most part is consistently captivating, though not overly so. What saves the film, of course, is the amazingly intense band sequences; director Charles Stone III does a good job of making the action as exciting as possible.
The final drum line scene is impressive, to say the least.
Drumline has many faults that keep it from being anything more than a sappy teen drama, but is still fairly entertaining. It makes for a good rental.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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