Plot: What’s it about?
Devon Miles (Nick Cannon) might have come from humble roots, but he has his eyes focused on a better life. His father left and while his mother did her best, growing up poor in Harlem wasn’t a good experience. But Devon found something he loved and he was so good at it, he was able to escape as a result. His skills as a drummer were so impressive, Dr. James Lee (Orlando Jones) came from Atlanta A&T to recruit Devon in person. This is unheard of, since Lee runs such a gifted, highly skilled band program. So after he graduates from high school, Devon pays his father a visit and then heads off to college. Even with his immense skills and full scholarship, Devon isn’t promised a place on the field, or even a position in the band. He finds himself lumped in with the rest of the freshmen in a band boot camp, in which the basics of the program are outlined. Not just in terms of music, but teamwork, presentation, and other rules of conduct. Devon manages to outshine his fellow freshmen and even upstage an upperclassman, but his attitude lands him in a lot of trouble. The alumnus love his fresh, upbeat style, but Lee seeks to have a more refined, classical kind of program, which creates some tension. Can Devon learn to harness his attitude, or will he find himself off the band and perhaps even out of school?
This is another one of those “feel good” movies, where someone rises from their humble origins, to make a better life for themselves. But Drumline isn’t as bad as some movies of this kind and in the end, it manages to be a passable picture. You’ll see all the usual cliches from “feel good” flicks, but Drumline never sinks too deep in those predictable moments. I mean, you should know how the storyline will turn out before you ever pop this disc in, but there are some solid twists that ensure things remain interesting. The main draw is the music however, which is presented in some dynamic, well crafted sequences. The live performances come off as spectacular here, but even the practice sessions are very enjoyable. The musical numbers sound excellent and really draw you into the experience, but the filmmakers made sure the visuals were up to snuff also. The streams of color, the great choreography, and the superb photography all combine to conjure up an immersive, in the moment kind of experience. In truth, I found most of the writing and acting to be rather thin, but these musical performances more than compensated. This is a mediocre picture in most respects, but as I said, the musical sequences save it from the abyss. If you’re into this kind of movie or just love marching bands, then give Drumline a rental.
He has a smaller, supporting role here, but I think Orlando Jones hands in the best of the performances seen in Drumline. The mostly young cast is passable, but none seem to stand out and as such, Jones is able to garner more attention. When I heard Jones was involved, I figured Drumline was some kind of comedic picture. As that’s what Brown is best known for, I assumed he would be doing silly, over the top humor and such. But Drumline is a dramatic effort and by turn, Jones is asked to be serious throughout. And much to my surprise, he comes through with a solid, effective effort that adds a lot to the movie. So perhaps we will see Jones in more dramatic work down the road, though I hope he doesn’t abandon his comedic roots. Other films with Jones include Evolution, The Replacements, Biker Boyz, The Time Machine, Say It Isn’t So, Bedazzled, Double Take, and From Dusk ‘Till Dawn 3. The cast also includes Nick Cannon (Men in Black II, Tv’s All That), Zoe Saldana (Crossroads, Center Stage), Leonard Roberts (He Got Game, Joe and Max), and Jason Weaver (Freedom Song, The Lion King).
Video: How does it look?
Drumline is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. A separate pan & scan release is available, but unless you’re braindead, this scope presentation is the only way to experience the film’s visuals. I was kind of surprised to see such a wide canvas used in this case, but the visuals never waste space in the least. The frame is loaded with information and in most scenes, I cannot even imagine how bad a pan & scan treatment would look. And if you want to see some rich colors, this transfer has some of the most vivid hues I’ve ever seen. The band uniforms are so vibrant and full, it seems almost three-dimensional at times. But even at their most bountiful, the hues never fall into error in the slightest. The contrast is just as impressive, with refined and well balanced black levels throughout. I did find subtle detail to be a tad lackluster and some compression flaws are evident, but this is still a dynamic presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
As this movie has an overload of musical content, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 option has ample chances to shine. So when the live music kicks in, the surrounds open up and really enhance the experience. As the drums snap, the horns blare, and the feet stomp, you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of it all. The immersive texture really adds a lot to the performance scenes, since you feel more like a member of the crowd, perhaps even like you’re in with the band. So we have a lot of dynamic surround presence, but the bass also gets some props, as it hits deep and gives those scenes even more punch. The dialogue is smooth and crisp also, while more subtle scenes have a natural, acceptable presence. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc houses a solid assortment of supplements, including an audio commentary from director Charles Stone III. The session has some good information, but Stone is such a dull speaker, its hard to sit through. I’m sure fans will want to give it a spin, but unless you were blown away by the film, Stone’s doldrums aren’t worthwhile. Stone also offers slow, dull comments on a selection of deleted scenes, but of course, his comments are optional. I was pleased to find these deleted scenes were more than just snippets and its interesting to see what was cut, though Stone’s comments aren’t too insightful. This disc also includes two music videos, and a half hour promotional behind the scenes featurette.