By T. Michelle Greenlee,
Harlem rough guy drummer goes South to play in famed University drumline & learns more than music.
Author Rating: 
3.0 Stars - It's Good

Drumline is a comedy where talented Harlem musician Devon (Nick Cannon) must learn team work and discipline to focus his own skills at a very different southern university. Set at the fictional Atlanta A & T; marching band director Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones) must decide to keep with tradition or allow the band to play the music they prefer, hip-hop. Prize money, reputation, and the future of the university's music program are at stake in a major exhibition show in the near future. A battle of the bands and finally the drumlines, at each football game show the importance of the line's skill and precision.

The story idea for this movie should be praised. Not enough is said about marching bands in the movie world. The hero must work for the prize, I enjoyed this theme throughout the film.

Orlando Jones' performance, as Dr. Lee, was near flawless. Dr. Lee is a intolerant traditional director who's desire is to play older music. His dogmatic belief in doing what has worked in the past is throughly displayed. Dr. Lee expects his students to play their music accurately; to be responsible. He is serious, accepting only the best. Jones' does this well; showing his own skill for accepting only the best in a performance.

Nick Cannon's work, as Devon, is tight and consistent. Though he wasn't given the room he needed from the storyline for better characterization, he showed that he has a place on screen. Cannon's acting seemed natural and relaxed; I really appreciated his comfort with his character though I wasn't convinced he was a tough kid from Harlem.

Leonard Roberts (Sean) nailed his character in this film. I fully believed he was the leader of the drumline. Roberts depiction of a section leader felt right to me; I've seen these guys in action and he got it right.

Laila (Zoe Saldan) seemed to be the token pretty girl for the film. Saldan's performance was good, she showed us who her character was; a complement to the screenwriters and testament to her own skill as an actress. Though I didn't buy the "hoochie-girl" style of dance for a major university dance group, Saldan's work was very good.

This movie had problematic components despite generally great performances of its actors and a positive story moral. The most disappointing being actual music performances. When I am told this is the best southern university drumline I expect a certain level of skill from that line; like that of Texas Tech University's Z.I.T. drumline. This was not what I heard in the movie Drumline. Cadeneces were not always clean; mistakes stuck out too often. I've never known a high level drumline to miss mistakes, and keep them in, especially when recording. This took away from the overall impact of the film.

There were other problems too. Marching formations seemed too simplistic for such a great band. When Dr. Lee announces marching formations will be harder with the next set of plot coordinances I expected them to be complex. Living in Texas, I've seen more difficult patterns performed by high school marching bands than the fictional A & T University band. Again I wasn't sold on the idea of the great A & T marching band idea. As a big fan of drum core I was throughly disappointed by the lack of difficulty in the film's field sequences.

This movie was billed as a comedy; it seemed confused with which genre it truly belonged. I feel it would have been better had it been a funny drama. It was too serious throughout to be classified as a comedy, generally not hilariously funny. The romantic part of the story felt hurried and underdeveloped, leaving me questioning what I missed. The positive message of this flick was not enough to spare it a low rating from me. It's not a total waste of time, definitely worth seeing if you've never been part of a great drum program. If you've been in drum corp, or a higher level drumline/marching band, you may want to spare yourself from the disappointment of sloppy drumming and flimsy plot.


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