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Directed by Charles Stone III.
Written by Tina Gordon Chism and Shawn Schepps. 
Starring Nick Cannon, Zoë Saldana and Orlando Bloom.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  1/5/03 


My sister Cate and I had to see something, but because she is my 14-year-old sister, the film pick had to be a PG-13.  So, “Gangs of New York” was out and “Drumline” was in.  (“Two Weeks Notice”?  You MUST be a Bellview rookie.)

“Drumline” follows the fictional Atlanta A&T marching band as it goes from late summer training camp through its run for victory at the BET Big Southern Classic, a band competition where the best bands in the South duke it out for $50,000 in prize money.  The movie is most concerned with an incoming freshman from NYC named Devon (Nick Cannon) who is possibly the best snare drum player at Atlanta A&T.  Devon’s an egotistical hotshot, but with skills to match his motor mouth and the eye of the lead cheerleader (Zoë Saldana, from Britney’s “Crossroads”) to boot, he’s DEFINITELY hangin’ out as he helps the band go from good to great.

As many movies have been this year, “Drumline” is basically two movies, one very clichéd and passé, and one pretty entertaining at a high level, no matter what your background.  Here, the scenes involving Devon in class, at parties, with his chica, and all others featuring him not on the field playing drums are pretty weak.  I just didn’t like Devon or the actor playing him, from his fake smile to his clichéd pick-up lines (blackified for this film, of course) to the fact that it just felt like this kid knows the director or something and that’s how he got this part.

However, the band sequences really shine and they are what make “Drumline” worthy of a Saturday-afternoon viewing.  I don’t think I have ever seen a film that spends so much time with the percussion section, and this originality helps you learn just a taste of why, for marching bands at least, the drums are the most important section of them all.  Adding to this is the same feeling you get every time you watch the halftime show of the Bayou Classic, featuring two traditionally-black schools.

Man, white bands suck!

In fact, watching “Drumline” made me think of how shitty the Pep Band at THE University of Virginia really is.  By far the whitest band in the country, the Pep Band isn’t really a marching band but has marching band tendencies—uniforms, on-field formations, covers of popular modern songs and a conductor wearing a grandiose uniform.  The difference is that the musicians on the Pep Band—at least, while I was there—mostly sucked.  In fact, during the Continental Tire Bowl, the ONLY thing that went wrong for UVA during the game was at halftime; 72,000 fans (i.e., West Virginia fans AND the UVA fans) were booing the Pep Band during their halftime show.  Sad.  (Don’t worry, Amanda, Vicki and Themis, I still love you guys.)

I love watching black marching bands; the music, the dancing, the uniforms, the *soul* is just awesome.  And, “Drumline” captures that feeling very well...too bad the rest of the movie doesn’t get any sloppy seconds.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09