[box cover]

Drumline

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." Remember that quote from high school English? Walden author Henry David Thoreau may have been an existentialist extraordinaire, but he wouldn't have lasted very long in a marching band. Out on the field, with trumpets blaring, drums pounding, and cymbals clashing, it's all about unity and conformity — one band, one sound. That's the lesson that hotshot musician Devon (charismatic newcomer Nick Cannon) has to learn in Drumline, an engaging dramedy about self-discovery and percussion instruments. Devon graduates from his Harlem high school as a big, cocky fish in a small pond; he's a naturally talented performer who only has to hear a piece once to be able to play it. When a music scholarship takes him to Atlanta A&T University — home of one of the South's best marching bands — Devon incorrectly assumes he can just pick up where he left off. He's certainly not prepared to have small-fishhood thrust upon him by strict drum-squad leader Sean (Leonard Roberts), who's threatened by Devon's talent and irritated by his attitude. One thing leads to another, and even Devon's "in" with band leader Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones, exhibiting a weirdly Jeff Goldblum-ish air in a rare serious role) can't protect him when he starts a fight with a drummer from a rival school. He may be incredibly gifted, but Devon has to swallow a whopping serving of humble pie before he can really understand what being part of a marching band is all about. (The humility doesn't hurt his relationship with girlfriend Laila — played by Zoe Saldana — either.) Drumline's plot isn't exactly revolutionary, but setting the standard coming-of-age story in the world of competitive Southern college marching bands was a fabulous idea. Every toe-tapping performance scene is riveting; if this is what going to a football game is like in the South, no wonder everyone roots for the home team. Just as Bring It On (despite its more mocking tone) ultimately demands respect for the sport of cheerleading, Drumline successfully captures the work that goes into creating the sheer spectacle of marching band competition. Director Charles Stone III has plenty to say about the film in the informative commentary track he recorded for Fox's DVD release. Other features include 10 deleted scenes (with optional commentary) — which offer a lot more performance footage — a "making-of" special that originally aired on BET; two music videos; a soundtrack promo; and a trailer for Antwone Fisher. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is clear, and the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio beautifully showcases every one of the band's notes (other options include Spanish and French 2.0 Surround tracks and English subtitles). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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