Projections - Movie Reviews



Drumline beats the rap of most studio films that have high school or college characters in them.  The new film from Charles Stone III is more convincing in its old school/new school formula than his recent trendy, but uneven, gritty urban drama Paid in Full.

In spite of being released among a glut of holiday releases that promise action, special effects, and big names on both sides of the camera, Drumline has a rhythmic step of intelligence and clarity than most pictures of its ilk.  This engaging look at marching band competition parallels recent well-received films like Bring it On and Save the Last Dance.

Stone, who directed the lively "Whassup" Budweiser commercials, is more assured here in working with lead yong actor Nick Cannon to understand honor in unified musicianship through discipline and rivalry, albeit in a familiar narrative arc.  Also, this Atlanta shoot has much going for it with acclaimed record producer-songwriter Dallas Austin lending and stretching his musical, marching band acumen having experience playing drums while in high school.

Cannon is very believable and likeable as Devon Miles, a Brooklyn hip-hop drummer who shows his sharp skills in the beginning during the preamble to his high-school graduation.  And parents will admire the film's attention to a son's love for his mother's being there for him, unlike his unhappy, busy dad.

Stone's feel for musical showmanship is counterbalanced fairly well to its depiction of campus life with mostly black colligates as many scenes were filmed in and around Morris Brown College and Clark Atlanta University.  Like Save the Last Dance, Devon's gifted, cocky percussionist is able to attract an older student, Zoe Saldana's principled, yet unfocused sorority member and marching band dance captain, Laila.  Some sparks fly, in a slo-mo club setting, as she warms to his different, yet curiously spontaneous personality.

Stone and Austin do their best in staging the performances, whether during college football games, at homecoming, and most vividly at BET's Big Southern Classic at Atlanta's spacious Georgia Dome where the Pounding Panthers clash with the Morris Brown Wolverines in music and dance.  Of course their percussionists must settle who's the best on one given day.  And the backbone of each band strikes contemporary notes in fierce competition as Drumline orchestrates a pulsating heartbeat for marching band music everywhere.


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