Drumline
review by Gregory Avery, 13 December 2002

I would be a fool, or a snob, or whatever not to admit that the music in Drumline kept me entirely occupied during all of its almost two-hour length, and that's a lot more than I can say about a lot of other pictures this year. The music in Drumline is good -- quite good, in fact -- and it would be nice if the story didn't just melt away, but the pleasures that it does afford may be enough to keep many moviegoers occupied amidst some of the more serious-minded concerns of other year-end movies.

Devon (Nick Cannon), a newly-graduated N.Y.C. high school student, has been recruited to play on the athletic field band for a (fictional) Atlanta university. The band students quickly learn that they are going to be put through a regiment as vigorous as for any military boot camp---rousted out of bed before the crack of dawn, they do mandatory push-ups and are hollered at by team leaders who act like drill sergeants. Devon, who has an aptitude for the snare drum, also has a rebellious streak and what is usually referred to as an attitude problem with authority (something that Cannon emphasizes with narrow, steely-eyed looks and the way he purses his lips), but his potentiality is not lost on the band's conductor, Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones, showing heretofore unrevealed acting ability), who gets Devon to do what it takes (including bettering Devon's ability to read sheet music) so that he may develop from being merely a talented musician into a very fine one.

Along the way, Devon picks up a girlfriend, Laila (the extremely beautiful Zoe Saldana), who's a member of the cheerleading squad (and is it me, or are girls' blouses and tops getting tinier and tinier?), and even gets some domestic problems with his father worked out. By the end, all boils down to a gigantic show-off with an arch-rival band from another Atlanta university (one which prefers flash over musicianship), and a toe-to-toe contest between the respective bands' drumlines, one that makes it look as if you not only have to play well---which is work enough---but also be able to do movement and choreography well enough to be able to put you in the Joffrey Ballet or Twyla Tharp's group. Where do the kids find time to lean this stuff and cram for classes?

Which brings us back to where we came in. While the movie is diverting enough, by the time it reaches its conclusion it has jettisoned whatever story it has set out to tell in the first place, settling on being a rousing piece of entertainment over a solid one. But that still didn't stop my foot from tapping to the music during the movie from beginning to last.


Read Cynthia Fuchs' interview.

Directed by:
Charles Stone III

Starring:
Nick Cannon
Zoe Saldana
Leonard Roberts
GQ
Candace Carey
J. Anthony Brown
Orlando Jones

Written by:
Tina Gordon Chism
Shawn Schepps

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
childern under 13.

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