DRUMLINE is a pulse-pounding musical drama about a marching band at a fictional African-American college vying to win the coveted Big Southern Classic, a contest for show-style marching bands. Though laced with some inappropriate foul language and light sexual references, the movie is a definite crowd-pleaser that may be a sleeper holiday hit.
The story of DRUMLINE focuses on freshman Devon Miles, a gifted hip-hop drummer who wins a full music scholarship to Atlanta A&T University. Devon, however, sports a talent that is both raw and undisciplined. Inevitably, sparks fly between him and senior class band member, Sean Taylor, who’s in charge of the drumline. When Sean discovers that Devon can’t read music, he alerts Dr. Lee, the school’s dedicated, demanding band director who’s under pressure from the college president to add more razzle dazzle and hip-hop music to the band’s repertoire.
Devon’s selfish pride and dishonesty threaten his future at the school and endanger Dr. Lee’s plans for the heralded Big Southern Classic, an important regional contest for show-style marching bands. The college president desperately wants the school band to beat the award-winning marching band of the school’s cross-town rival, real-life college Morris Brown, led by a flashy conductor who mocks Dr. Lee’s “old-school” style. Also threatening the unity of Dr. Lee’s band is Sean, who takes everything that Devon does personally, instead of looking out for the band as a whole. Devon, Sean and even Dr. Lee have to get over their pride in order to save the day.
DRUMLINE is a fun, rousing musical drama reminiscent of 1999’s excellent REMEMBER THE TITANS, were it not for DRUMLINE’s humanist worldview. DRUMLINE lacks the redemptive, Christian outlook of TITANS. Consequently, it contains too many light obscenities, as well as a few light sexual references. For instance, in one scene, Devon helps a white friend learn how to handle his bass drum better so that he can win a position on the school’s drumline. Devon tells the student that he has to “make love” to his drum.
Despite these problems, the movie has an interesting take on the theme of pride which drives the storyline. Not only do Devon and Sean have to overcome their selfish pride, but so does Dr. Lee. Although Dr. Lee appropriately punishes Devon for being prideful and for lying, he rewards Devon when Devon eventually shows that he can overcome his pride. He tells Devon that, because of his good behavior, Devon can claim a spot on the band for next year. Even so, Dr. Lee’s own pride endangers the unity of the band. By being unwilling to compromise his commitment to traditional band music, he refuses to let the band members add any current musical, dance styles to the band’s repertoire. It is only when Dr. Lee sees his own pride reflected in Sean’s selfish pride that Dr. Lee decides to combine the old with the new. He also discovers that there’s no harm in updating his band’s style, so long as the band maintains the appropriate discipline to music that sets his band apart from the other bands. Because of these things, Dr. Lee and his band are able to succeed, while their rival, the flashy band director, fails. Thus, Dr. Lee and his band can let go of their pride, but the flashy band director cannot.
The cast of DRUMLINE, including Nick Cannon as Devon and especially Orlando Jones as Dr. Lee, does a good job of keeping viewers interested. They lend a good degree of reality to what is a somewhat predictable, artificial storyline. What shines the most here, however, are the movie’s wonderful, elaborately staged musical sequences, produced by Grammy winner Dallas Austin and technical advisor Don Roberts, a veteran high school band director. If these sequences don’t pump you up, you may want to check your pulse.
In addition to the light foul language and sexual references, one other thing makes DRUMLINE a problematic piece. At the end, although Devon, Sean and Dr. Lee have appropriately managed to overcome their pride (without compromising Dr. Lee’s disciplinary standards, however), there remains an intense, taunting spirit of one-upmanship between the two rival marching bands. This may sour the display of competitive spirit in the movie for caring parents and other discerning adults. Thus, many parents might find it more beneficial to rent REMEMBER THE TITANS for their children instead and plan an exciting movie party at their home.
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(H, BB, LLL, V, S, M) Humanist worldview with some strong moral elements about integrity, pride, fellowship, and how to become a team player while maintaining your individuality; 28 obscenities, including some "s" words and the use of a--; young man trashes his room in one scene and members of two different bands fight after taunting one another; passionate kiss, light suggestive dancing and other light, brief sexual references; female cleavage and sexy dresses; no alcohol or smoking; and, pride and rebellion against authority rebuked.