Drumline – Hilariously Dumb

Drumline – Hilariously Dumb

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  1. Have you ever seen "Wild ‘N Out" with Nick Cannon?  Chances are, you haven’t because if you wanted to watch an improv show, you probably would stick with "Whose Line is it Anyway."  That is, unless you are a Nick Cannon fan (there aren’t many of you, so be proud of your individuality).  If you are one of the few Cannon fans, you probably saw Charles Stone III’s feature directorial debut, Drumline (2002).  And, if you did see this film, you probably either fall into two camps:  you have been on a drumline and realize how ridiculous it is so you just laugh at the silliness, or you haven’t been on a drumline so you think it’s kinda cool but all the music sounds the same.  I happen to fall into the "I’ve been on a drumline" camp, so I find it laughable but enjoyable… because it’s laughable.

    What is it about?

    IMDB.com summarizes Drumline this way:  "A band director recruits a Harlem street drummer to play at a Southern university."  This is sort of true except the protagonist, Devon (Nick Cannon), either isn’t a "Harlem street drummer" or the film doesn’t portray that very well because it seems more like he was a high school percussionist that wouldn’t have gone to college had it not been for his "mad skills" on drums.  Those skills got him picked up by Atlanta A&T where he got a scholarship to be on the drumline.  Once there, he has to battle his own massive ego, a hard-nosed section leader (Leonard Roberts), and an idealist band director (Orlando Jones) in order to succeed on the drumline and try to win the heart of a free-spirited dancer (Zoe Saldana).  Of course he also has to try and get his band to win the BET classic (in which, apparently, ties are broken by drum battles), thus defeating their bitter rivals.

    Is it any good?

    Not really… well, let me elaborate.  Parts of it are good, but not a lot.

    The actual drumming is good, visually, because of all the ridiculous stick tricks that the drummers do; however, the actual beats and "music" that they play is simplistic, boring, and sounds the same throughout the entire film.  Each drum battle can be characterized by how crazy the drum line can be in the way of stick tricks, choreography, and cheesy gimmicks.  And the judges at these events watch these drum battles in awe.  You’d think that the flashy stick tricks would fool the audience, but not the judges… apparently not.  And, beyond that, many of the things they do aren’t even remotely realistic (more on that later).

    If you can get past the issues with the drumming, then you still get bombarded with cliche character after cliche character.  Devon is a semi-hood dude with a massive ego and father issues (his father wasn’t there for him… imagine that).  Laila (the love interest) is a dancer who isn’t studying what she really wants to study in school because daddy wouldn’t pay for her to go to school to study dance.  Sean (the section leader) is the leader who is threatened by the young newcomer.  Dr. Lee is the old school band director refusing to compromise musicality.  These characters are a dime a dozen (see what I did there… I used a cliche to describe cliches).  The one unique character, Jayson, ends up being a cliche, too.  He is the token white dude that breaks the mold by switching away from the standard "white person band" experience because he doesn’t care for the style of it.  But he ends up talking and acting like he thinks he’s from the hood so he becomes the "wankster" cliche.

    So many other things are wrong with this film including cheesy, on-the-nose dialogue and bad line deliveries of that cheesy dialogue.  Then there is Nick Cannon’s perpetual head bobbing and "duck face" (as they call it on Facebook).  There are some good acting performances though.  Orlando Jones isn’t horrible as Dr. Lee (but the character flip-flops on his ideals a number of times with seemingly no good reason), and Jason Weaver steals the show as Ernest – the goofy, mediocre drummer who cares more about "getting on some honeys" as he does about the drumline.

    All of these elements come together, though, to create a film that is perfect for getting together with your fellow dumline members and laughing at.  Or just laughing at with non-band friends.  It’s even good for those of you that hate "band geeks," because most of the characters are what you would consider "band geeks" to the max.  Whoever you are and whatever your band background, it’s hilariously bad.

    A little somethin’ somethin’ on the end…

    Favorite bad lines:

    Devon finishes playing an audition piece, then proceeds to play a simple little beat between the drum and the rim of the drum with some fancy stick tricks and tells the judges "I just thought I’d add a little somethin’ somethin’ on the end."

    Dr. Lee is upset at a feud between Devon and his section leader, Sean, so he confronts the two of them by saying, "I don’t know what beef is between you, but you’d better grill it up and eat it."

    and my favorite…

    After Devon starts a fist fight between two drumlines, Laila brushes him off when she was going to let him meet her parents.  When she later approaches him in the lunch line (which doesn’t look like a college dining hall) he says, "Oh, snap… now you can see me?" (and it’s one of the worst line deliveries ever)

    Unrealistic drum stuff:

    When Devon takes Sean’s solo at the first performance, during a long drum roll, Devon switches his grip on the sticks from traditional to matched and back again.  For the layperson, that means that he changes how he holds his sticks in the middle of a long roll… during which it’s impossible to change your grip.  This happens numerous times throughout the film with many of the snare drummers.

    When Devon and Sean have a "drum battle" in the band room, Devon has a device on his drum that records what he’s playing and prints the sheet music.  Well, when it prints and we get a look at the music, there are flats, sharps, and naturals (symbols that denote DIFFERENT PITCHES) which shouldn’t appear on drum music… ya know, since there aren’t different pitches on a snare drum.

    Nolan’s Grade:  C

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