Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
When Harlem-bred prodigy Devon Miles (Nick Cannon) gets recruited to play at Atlanta A&T University, he faces the usual sports-movie obstacles: the preseason boot camp in a biblical storm, the first-game jitters, the band director who makes Devon polish his drums until he sees his face in them. Just because Drumline might be the first-ever feature-length marching-band movie doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been made a thousand times over. Luckily, in the extended performance sequences that make up the bulk of the film, director Charles Stone III (Paid in Full) brings all the energy, color, and showmanship of an exhilarating brass-band spectacle to the screen. The visuals pop as clearly and loudly as the snares, with Stone deftly switching from close-ups of drumstick prestidigitation to bird’s-eye views of a formation to wide-angle shots of the drumline rat-tat-tatting. The soundtrack, when not swerving wildly away from brass and percussion toward the land of ‘N Sync solo careers (JC Chasez, please stand up), is similarly engaging and fast-moving—as well as comprehensive in acknowledging the laundry list of influences on modern-day brass-band music, from classical to soul to funk to hiphop. A genre-hopping highlight comes when the education-minded A&T band director, Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones), tries to show up his players’ hiphop-loving rivals from Morris Brown College by leading his bemused charges in a round of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Though the fictional Atlanta A&T band is convincing—it’s clear that each step, twirl, and note has been rehearsed and choreographed in loving detail—it’s clearly not in the same league as the sassy kids from Morris Brown, despite the film’s halfhearted attempts to convince the audience otherwise. And by the time of the Big Game, the cliches have long since been forgotten: It doesn’t matter which team wins, as long as somebody’s keeping a tight beat. —Josh Levin