Plot: 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?
Entertainment Value: This is another one of those inspirational, feel good kind of 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 inspirational 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 the ride to get there is watchable. The main draw is the music and marching sequences, which are presented in some dynamic, well crafted sequences. The live performances drive the movie, with good presence and atmosphere that reel you in, if you appreciate this kind of performance, that is. 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. Jones is best known as an over the top, slapstick style comedian, so this is a change of pace. Drumline is a more serious effort and by turn, Jones is asked to be a little more serious than normal as well, though his charm still shines through. And much to my surprise, he comes through with a solid, enjoyable effort that adds a lot to the movie. Nick Cannon is passable in the lead, but never really lights up the screen by any means, while Zoe Saldanda is charismatic and fun to watch, as always. The cast also includes Leonard Roberts, Jason Weaver, and Candance Carey.