The film centers around Devon (Nick Cannon), a freshman recruited to attend Atlanta A&T University on a full ride scholarship to play in the school's marching band. He's an overachiever with a chip on his shoulder who thinks he knows everything about playing the drums. At tryouts, which look more like boot camp, Devon disrespects his band director Dr. Aaron Lee (Orlando Jones) by refusing to participate with the rest of the group. A power struggle soon ensues between Devon and his drumline section leader Sean (Leonard Roberts) who feels the freshman's talent threatens his position at the top of the food chain.
If that wasn't enough melodrama, Devon is eventually removed from the team for causing a fight during homecoming, which leads to problems with his dance-squad leader girlfriend Laila (Zoe Saldana). The university president is upset about Devon's removal and he pressures Dr. Lee to reinstate Devon because the school's alumni will revoke their financial support of the squad if they don't. Eventually, everyone works through their issues just in time for a marching band competition between A&T and its archrival, Morris Brown University.
First-time writer Tina Chism throws at us every standard formula possible from the Screenwriting for Dummies. Drumline spends three-quarters of its running time dealing with Devon's attitude problem and the politics of the bandmember hierarchy. Do we really care? As a result, Drumline devotes very little time showcasing the music and style of the marching band. It isn't until the last 20 minutes where we are finally treated to several full performances where their precision and artistry are allowed to shine. I was impressed, but by that time, the completely predictable plotline had drained any ounce of excitement left in the movie.
Drumline tries to be funny, but it fails. It also fails to be inspiring by preaching stale, overused expressions like, "You must learn to follow before you can lead." Bottom line, there is nothing inspirational about Drumline and the only interesting parts occur in the film's final stanza. At minimum, Drumline succeeds in dispelling some myths about marching bands, but it never really gives us any reason to care.
I'm not convinced it's possible, but if you want even more drumming, there's about 20 minutes of deleted scenes on the Drumline DVD. Or, if you want less drumming, you can turn on Charles Stone III's commentary and try to get that incessant pounding out of your head.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th December 2002
Box Office USA: $56.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $57.6M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Fox 2000 Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 15
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Charles Stone III
Starring: Nick Cannon as Devon Miles, Zoe Saldana as Laila, Orlando Jones as Dr. Lee, Leonard Roberts as Sean Taylor, GQ as Jayson, Earl Poitier as Charles, Jason Weaver as Ernest, Candace Carey as Diedre, Shay Roundtree as Big Rob, Miguel A. Gaetan as Trey, J. Anthony Brown as Mr. Wade, Afemo Omilami as President Wagner, Tyreese Burnett as Henry, Brandon Hirsch as Buck Wild, Angela Elayne Gibbs as Dorothy Miles
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