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Drumline is a great movie -- but you have to see it for what it is ...
what your preconceived notions lead you to believe it might
This movie is all about exposing people to the world of Black College marching bands. You couldn't have a movie that was 2 hours of nothing but band performances so you HAD to wrap a formulaic story around it. "Boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy gets girl back and learns the value of teamwork in time for the big showdown" is a formula that has worked for years -- and it works here!
Another poster remarked that the band camp scenes were unrealistic because they were too "militaristic" ... he didn't believe that (among other things) that the students would be made to run around holding their drums and so forth. Well, believe it!
I marched in one of these bands (Southern University in Louisiana) 20 years ago and back then, band camp was FAR MORE INTENSE than anything you see on the screen in this movie. YES, it is that competitive. YES, it is that grueling. YES, it is that disciplined. Black College marching band is serious business and this film gives you only a small sample of what it takes to "make the band."
The actual band performances are AWESOME and will definitely be an eye-opener to anyone who has never seen this type of thing before. More importantly, there is no sex, violence, drug use, and very little bad language (just the requisite "d*mns" and "h@lls" - nothing any more intense than prime-time television.) Equally important, the movie features strong male figures who resolve differences without resorting to pathological violence.
One last point -- the movie grossed 13+ million dollars in its opening weekend. And this was against Star Trek (18.7 M) and the Jennifer Lopez (19 M) movie. Although it finished in third place, it was shown in about 1,000 fewer theaters than those two. It had (by far) the highest "revenue per theater" for the weekend!
Do yourself a favor -- open your mind and see this movie -- you and your family will enjoy it!
Former drumline member here. Well damn, I guess I'll be the first
to say I liked the movie a lot. I swear, half of these reviews I'm
are annoying - people bashing it because it's an all black movie, people
bashing it because the band has dancers instead of a color guard, people
calling the drumming rudimentary because they played in a drumline that
better blah blah blah.
What do you guys want, a documentary on marching band? If I was to make a Hollywood movie about the drumline I would have done the same exact things with the drum sequences - put in a gang of stick tricks and showmanship that would translate well to the screen. Nobody wants to watch flam taps for 90 minutes.
That being said, the last drum battle is one of my favorite things to watch. I love when the bass drum cadence comes in, the basses march in a circle, the quads toss each other their sticks between bars, and the snares have an orgy of backsticking and other stick tricks on a level you rarely see performed in real life. And the movie is only cliche as far as its kid w/ bad attitude needs to put his pride away plot goes. I don't watch Nickelodeon so I haven't seen one of those types of movies since I was... hmmm since I was 5. Far as what isn't cliche about it, there's a lot to like. One of the best things is that it immerses itself in Afro-American culture w/out any cliches at all - just life as it is down south at an all-black university. No guns, drugs, none of that stuff that you'd expect from a character who walks and talks like Nick Cannon's character does. I also liked the way they handled the white character in the band. The dialogue where they ask him why he went to the all-black college. His first reply is a wink at the audience, which would expect Hollywood to trivialize race relations like that. Then he goes, nah for real though, and gives a sincere answer that makes sense.
I'm not one of those people who moans and groans that "movies today are so
full of trashy language" (or sex or violence or whatever), and that there's
not enough "wholesome" (that word gives me a pain) entertainment for the
family. For all those who do (and even those who don't), here's an
energetic film that manages to entertain while eschewing content that could
conceivably offend anyone (unless they find even the tiniest amount of
innocuous, lightweight hip-hop too much to take).
The thematic ground here - young hotshot learns to sacrifice for the good of the team; underdogs strive for triumph - has been covered countless times before, so DRUMLINE wisely boils the plot down to its barest elements, for the most part sidestepping the obligatory contrived obstacles and setbacks, and plays to its strength: the music.
This is a story about college marching bands, focusing in particular on the members of the percussion section, and a good 50% - if not more - of the film concentrates on the lively and elaborate performances of the bands, which are complimented by equally lively cinematography and editing.
No, it's not deep and, yes, it's old fashioned. In, fact, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see Mickey and Judy in the roles of Devon and Laila (though probably with different names!). I mean, these are the cleanest livin' kids you'll see in any recent picture! But it's solid and it all works. Oh, and don't be scared off by the idea of so much college marching band music. Not being a football fan, my exposure to such things is limited to the Rose Parade, and I don't have a clue as to what state-of-the-art is for halftime entertainment these days, but, for what it's worth, this is the best college marching band stuff I've ever seen, and I wasn't bored for a minute.
I'm not a musician and know little about marching bands. However, this movie captivated my attention. The athleticism of these musical marchers was something I had never thought about until watching this excellent movie. The music is wonderful and the drumline competition puts the dueling banjos of yesterday to shame. The story line delivers a good message of how raw talent can be molded into disciplined success. The concept of teamwork and individual goals are blended into a believable and inspiring movie. I found the acting to be very good and will look for the cast in future movies. Nick Cannon and Orlando Jones never leave any doubt about the characters they are playing.
One of the few times where black youths aren't portrayed as hoods, this movie proved it moved to the beat of a different drum (yes I know, bad pun). Anyway, I was pretty surprised by how well made the film was, considering there were no well known actors in the film besides Orlando Jones. This movie isn't just for band kids, it encompasses a broad spectrum of life that is actually interesting to watch. Sure, some might have considered this movie corny, but the band sequences saved any misgivings this film might have had. Watch this movie for the heck of it, because you might actually be surprised.
The "talented young smart-ass goes to college and learns there's more
to life than being skillful or clever" theme is an old one and it's
been done better many times in the past. Robert Young learned about
teamwork in "Navy Blue and Gold." More recently Rob Lowe learned the
lesson in "Oxford Blues." The difference between Drumline and these and
other older films on the same theme is that the lead characters evoked
more sympathy. Nick Cannon's Devon Miles character is a self-centered,
posturing, swaggering jackass who evokes immediate dislike and though
you see him grow up a little in the course of the film, you never
really learn to like or respect him.
Drumline also suffers from an identity crisis of its own. You're never really sure what sort of story it wants to tell. Is is a "coming of age" story, a drama, a comedy, a romance? It tries to be all of these at once and never seals the deal on any of them.
Drumline could have told a good story about a New York kid learning that there's more than one way to be black in this world. There are a couple of hints of that in Devon's relationship with Laila. Her comment to Devon: "Southern sisters don't date...we have boyfriends," could have been an opening to a good subplot about differences in black culture between different parts of the US, but, as with so many other possible plots, the story touches it lightly, and then flits off to something else. An arrogant young freshman such as Devon would have had many lessons to learn while finding his way in this environment, but the film misses nearly every opportunity to show us the relationships between the characters in any depth, so the performances come off as predictable and mechanical.
All the same, I've seen Drumline several times and enjoyed it for what it does very well. The presentation of the music and and the work that goes into running a big university marching band are very good. I could have done with more of both. The all-too-brief glimpses of life at a black southern university are well done. Again, I could have done with more of that as well. Drumline also had moments of humor, and some visually engaging camera work, especially in the music scenes.
I like this movie. I just wish it had been better done.
Drumline is a great movie for anybody to see. I especially like it
I am a "band nerd" but that's ok. I would like it anyway; it has it's
parts, it's serious parts, and I am still wondering how they found so
awesome drummers, (and other musicians for that matter!)
Because of this movie, I now have some respect for Nick Cannon as an actor. I'm glad he finally starred in a great movie for all ages, and is no longer confined to piece of crap kids sketch comedy shows on Nickelodeon, [which, by the way, SUCKS as of late (i.e. My life as a teenage robot, slimetime, ginger)]
Overall, great movie, great job by Nick Cannon.
Those who have been in precision marching bands (yes, that includes the music) know about the hard work and dedication that it takes to be the best or among the best. The message of the movie, as I see it, is about that dedication and sacrifice in order to achieve greatness. Being a movie, of course there are unrealistic aspects woven into the story. For example, Devon should have not have been permitted to rejoin the band until he could read music. Because he did, it shot a big hole in one of the main underlying moral principles of the band. Still, we're talking about a movie. I experienced great emotional appeal watching the hard work of the "team." Sure, if it was a complete story about a marching band, the movie would fall far short, but who would watch a 20-hour movie about a marching band? It certainly would have been more realistic to include the pranks and general fun that we all had to have in between all the hard work just to stay sane. The movie as presented may not be entertaining to anyone who has never worked hard toward a goal with a team, but for those who have, I'm sure they will see a piece of themselves and their experience in Drumline. It's easy to find criticism in virtually anything. If we accept the basic good message of Drumline and allow ourselves to be entertained by the music as presented, it will be a movie that will be watched and enjoyed repeatedly. For those who actually think there are race issues in the movie, pay more attention to the people in it and what they are trying to do with their work, and you won't see any color. With some luck, maybe one day, you'll know what it's like to be in a marching band.
For those who have ever marched snare, the talent on display in this
movie is truly amazing. Aficianados can appreciate the tight flams,
rolls, high sticking...but beware, the constant tug of war between "the
line" versus "showboating" is nothing' but Hollywood drama because
every experienced snare drummer knows nothing is sweeter than when ten
snares sound like one because it only takes one weak link to muddy the
Did I pay attention to the rest of this movie? Well, no. So I can't honestly comment about anything else other than the drum line. But then again isn't this what the movie is about because that's what I'm all about!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Drumline" tells of an Afro-Am high school grad and hotshot drummer who goes to college and learns it takes more than fast sticks to make the grade. Just okay as a light drama, this flick deserves high marks for making some positive points about the importance of rudiments and teamwork to success and for its tribute to, what is on most campuses considered un-cool, marching bands. What the film lacks in story it makes up for in marching band pageantry, music, and, most of all, percussion. A must see for anyone into marching bands and a should see for young people who dine on a steady diet of MTV and other entertainment junk food. (B)
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