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Drumline (December 13/02)

Drumline is one of those movies that features characters overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, and though it does go on for a half hour longer than it should, it's entertaining enough to warrant a recommendation.

Nick Cannon stars as Devon, a troubled kid who's got an extraordinary talent when it comes to playing the drums. So much so, that he's just been offered a scholarship to a prestigious school with the condition that he join the marching band. Devon's expecting an easy ride, so he's shocked when he discovers the band is run like a military operation - complete with early morning wake-up calls and rigid rules that aren't to be broken. Each section of the band has their own leader, and Devon's leader (Leonard Roberts) doesn't much care for his rebellious style. But as time progresses, Devon begins to change his attitude towards the whole thing - mostly because he wants to attract the attention of a beautiful cheerleader named Laila (Zoe Saldana).

Drumline's structure is similar to a variety of sports movies (Hoosiers, Remember the Titans), so it is worth noting that this is likely the first time the ragtag-underdogs-that-make-good storyline has been put to use in a film concerning musical instruments. Though it's easy enough to predict what's going to happen next, the movie never sinks into mediocrity mostly due to some enthusastic performances and a colorful assortment of supporting characters. Cannon, an unknown actor who'll surely receive more work after this, has a tough job as he has to take this punk kid and eventually turn him into someone we like (and are willing to follow throughout the movie). And though Roberts (as Devon's leader, Sean) is saddled with an impossibly cliched character arc - he initially dislikes Devon, but wouldn't you know, eventually comes to respect him - he manages to turn Sean into something more than just a cog in the plot's machine.

But director Charles Stone III (yep, the same guy who did those annoying "whassup" ads) doesn't realize when to call it quits, and keeps the movie going for close to two hours. Now, when you've got a film that has an outcome as obvious as this, it's probably not such a great idea to run for longer than 90 minutes or so. And as enjoyable some of the musical sequences are, by the time the climactic "battle of the marching bands" showdown rolls around, it's almost impossible to actually care at that point.

Still, though the movie does overstay its welcome, it's never boring and the majority of the music is infectiously catchy - not to mention impressive, which most of the drum sequences certainly are. But the rampant predictability of the screenplay and overlong running time prevents Drumline from becoming much more than an instantly forgettable two hours.

out of

© David Nusair