Fox // 2002 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // February 16th, 2009
Halftime is game time!
Are you ready to drum in high definition?
Charles Stone III's entertaining marching band drama Drumline tells the story of Devon Miles (Nick Cannon, Underclassman), a stubborn but talented young drummer who receives a scholarship to Atlanta's A&T University, where he hopes to become the star of the school's renowned marching band.
As Devon quickly realizes, however, being a good drummer with a big dream doesn't always get you to the top, especially not if your insolent attitude desperately needs a makeover...
Grab your sticks and drum along, because Drumline boasts enough vibrant material to offer viewers a darn entertaining show. That said, the film is not perfect, as evidenced by its rather formulaic story about an arrogant young man who has trouble following the rules. When Devon first arrives at A&T, all he cares about is himself and his talent, which he expects will immediately get him a top spot on the marching band's drumline. Of course, things don't really work out. As the movie progresses, even Devon realizes that the only way for him to succeed is to work for his team, not just for himself. Naturally, Devon also gets into a bunch of conflicts with his peers and instructors. Although much of all this is fairly predictable, the film doesn't really fall victim to the cheesy sentimentality you see in many other inspirational flicks (except for the very ending, maybe). As expected, many of these characters also struggle with their own problems, but watching them deal with these predicaments throughout the plot actually turns out to be quite engaging.
The biggest strength of the film, however, is the drumming, and we get plenty of that during the two-hour running time. Not only does Drumline offer an interesting look into the world of marching bands, but the drum action also looks and sounds incredibly exciting. The bands' vibrant and well coordinated routines supply the movie with tons of entertaining moments, culminating in a big musical finale between the best bands at the Big Southern Classic competition. Complementing the excellent the drumming in these scenes are Stone's fast-paced direction, the movie's attractive visual style, and a solid soundtrack.
Another thing that really ended up surprising me in Drumline was the performances. Nick Cannon may try a little too hard in the role of the school's rebel, but all in all, he pretty much hits all the right notes when it comes to highlighting Devon's inner conflict in the film's more serious moments. He's undoubtedly a highly energetic guy, but his enthusiasm is just what this movie needs. Another interesting character is that of Orlando Jones' Dr. Lee, the marching band's director who's having a hard time resisting his superior's urging to play something more modern and hip instead of sticking to classic tunes. Lee spends most of the story fighting his inner demons, but he's still a sincere and likable character, and Jones is the perfect guy for the role. Also starring are Zoe Saldana, Leonard Roberts, and Jason Weaver.
Fox has put together a decent Blu-ray edition of Drumline and while the disc's 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio transfer works flawlessly, the video is not necessarily one of the best. The film's 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation is certainly not a disaster, but it still wrestles with plenty of grainy scenes, especially during the movie's darker shots. I'm generally quite satisfied with Fox's high-definition DVDs, but this one just doesn't reach the level of perfection of most Blu-ray discs I've reviewed.
This edition of Drumline includes both the theatrical and extended versions, with the latter running four minutes longer. Besides four deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, the special features also include three behind-the-scenes featurettes. "Half-Time Heroes" is an informative 14-minute look at what it takes for real-life marching band participants to put on a flawless show. It's a short but interesting piece because cast members and real musicians discuss the anatomy of the bands' routines, the different styles of music they play, and the challenges of attending tough practice sessions. "Real Battle of the Bands" offers a 9-minute insight into the real battle of marching bands that takes place in Atlanta every year. It's a great featurette for those who would like to know what this big event means to all the participants. Also included is "Anatomy of a Drumline," another engaging look at how a marching band really operates and what it takes to make it to the top spot on the drumline. The bonus material also features an audio commentary with Charles Stone III, who talks about most of the scenes in detail, focusing on locations, the shooting in general, and his experience with his cast. Good stuff, indeed.
Who ever thought a movie about marching bands could be so intense? Drumline may not exactly redefine its genre, but honest performances, a vibrant story, and tons of entertaining drumming action make for a thoroughly enjoyable musical drama with potential repeated viewing.
Drum, drum! Not guilty. Drum, drum!
Review content copyright © 2009 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes