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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Drumline
Drumline
Fox // PG-13 // April 15, 2003
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 3, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"Drumline" was released with little buzz behind it last Fall. The film didn't open with a particularly high gross, either, but continued along well for several weeks, picking up business from strong word-of-mouth. The film isn't particularly original - it's another sports drama/coming-of-age, but I thought the writing was smart and the performances/characters interesting. It's an example of a formula movie overcoming the predictability that goes along with another entry into a full genre.

The picture stars Nick Cannon as Devon, a Freshman entering an Atlanta college on a band scholarship. Devon is certainly one of the brightest talents in the band, but he proves to be troublesome due to his tendency to go on his own rather than be part of the greater whole of the team. He also questions the musical choices of the bandmaster, Dr. Aaron Lee (Orlando Jones, in his best performance).

Beautifully filmed in scope, the picture's band scenes offer a force and drama to the proceedings that I don't think I've ever seen in a music-related picture - they're more boot camp than band camp. I appreciated the respect that the film had for the work that these musicians do and that deep respect really made the picture more involving. The film is also confidently directed by Charles Stone, who manages to keep the beat of the story marching forward wonderfully over 117 minutes. Bold cinematography by Shane Hurlbut ("crazy/beautiful"), terrific locations and production design suggest a movie that's more along the lines of a $35-40m one than a $20m one.

Stone also gets fine performances from his leads. Nick Cannon is very good as Devon - a stand-out talent with a personality that gets him into trouble. He makes the character outspoken, but sympathetic and involving. Jones ("Evolution") is very good in what is, as far as I can remember, his first dramatic role. Zoe Saldana ("Crossroads") is also effective as Devon's romantic interest, turning a minor character into something more. The music is also fantastic - the drumming is often nothing short of amazing, especially towards the end (Yes, there is the big "championship" scene).

If anything, I'd have liked the film to feature more depth in the way of debate of old vs. new in terms of music and a bit more to the characters. The energetic movie goes along quickly nevertheless, but more character development and plot would have helped make it something more. "Drumline" may not be a classic in the genre, but I really did find it to be an enjoyable effort. The story is nothing new, but the presentation was energetic and bold, and the performances made the somewhat predictable situations involving. A very enjoyable film, I can see how "Drumline" could easily become a word-of-mouth hit.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Drumline" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (a very cropped 1.33:1 pan & scan edition, unfortunately, is also out there). The transfer isn't among the studio's finest efforts, but it's really a pretty solid effort overall. Sharpness and detail are above average, as the picture remained crisp and clear throughout. The amount of detail present was never really exceptional, but the image never appeared soft, either.

Some concerns were present throughout; while nothing major, their existence did keep the transfer from reaching a higher level. Mild edge enhancement was present in several scenes. Some traces of compression artifacts were also spotted, along with a speck or two on the print used. The film's vivid, rich color palette was presented very well, as colors looked well-saturated and vibrant throughout the film. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. This could have been a somewhat improved effort, but otherwise, nice work from Fox.

SOUND: "Drumline" is presented by Fox in Dolby Digital 5.1. The material may suggest a fairly straightforward audio presentation, but "Drumline" extends its audio outward on many occasions. Certainly a music-heavy film, the tunes are presented across a wide front soundstage and certainly hit with strong impact; this is certainly a dynamic, crisp presentation, with solid low bass. The surround channels aren't hugely aggressive, but the rear speakers do certainly provide the occasional ambience (especially during the stadium scenes) and pleasant reinforcement of both the score and in-film music. Dialogue remained clear and natural throughout.

EXTRAS: The DVD offers a commentary from director Charles Stone, a 20-minute "making of", 10 deleted scenes w/commentary, 2 music videos, a soundtrack promo and a trailer for "Antwone Fisher".

Final Thoughts: "Drumline" was a pleasant surprise, a film with a strong visual style, great energy and terrific performances. The plot could have been given more depth, but still found the story and characters likable, nonetheless. Fox's DVD offers a few good supplements and great audio/video quality. Recommended.

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