It all sounds fairly typical... two colleges face each other on a football field. Looking eye to eye, these opponents know each other well, and will ultimately meet again at the end of the movie for that final climatic scene. But instead of throwing footballs, these players are blowing tubas and pounding drums in this film about marching band rivalries.
Devon (Nick Cannon) is a Harlem boy who loves the drums more than anything else. Playing in his high school band, he has attracted the attention of the renowned Dr. T. (Orlando Jones), band director at the prestigious (and fictional) Atlanta A&T. Winning a full scholarship to the school, home to of one of the nation's most recognized marching bands, Devon eagerly packs his bags and his street-smart attitude.
With an uncanny ability to memorize cadences after observing them only one time, Devon feels he's already a beat ahead of most of his band-mates, but Sean (Leonard Roberts), the militaristic percussion section leader doesn't appreciate his hotshot style. Combined with Dr. T's. emphasis of "one band, one sound", Devon's selfish tendencies become more juxtaposed with the ensemble's number one goal.
Meanwhile the Doctor faces his own battle. The college president is putting pressure on him to make the band more contemporary so they may better compete with rival Morris Brown College and appeal to funding alumni. Favoring pieces like "The Flight of the Bumblebee" over hip-hop, Dr. T. struggles to find a middle ground in time for the major annual competition- the outcome of which will determine his continued employment.
Considering the dozens of sports movies based on this same premise (complete with endless choreographed plays), Drumline deserves to be noted simply for marching to a different beat. Even better, it presents a compelling story about putting aside personal pride for the good of the group. And if you like marching bands, this film's cinematography puts you in the middle of the action.
Mild and moderate profanities along with some sexual innuendo don't allow us to blow the horn for Drumline as loudly as we would like, yet this movie's positive message is backed by a good beat.