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Heroes of the Zeroes: Drumline

by on April 3, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Drumline”
Rated PG-13
2002

True bandos rise before the sun to chair-step by the crack of dawn, sympathize with the deflation of a lost placement challenge and realize the tubas … well, the tubas exist in their own little world.

They saw themselves in 2002’s exuberant, charismatic and lovingly accurate “Drumline,” a college marching-band movie that faked no flavor while staying in step with themes of instruction, character and respect.

Devin (Nick Cannon) is a hotheaded Harlem kid recruited by college-band director Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones) to join his vaunted drumline. Devin’s new-school flash immediately clashes with Lee’s old-school regimentation, and their conflict challenges both Lee’s directorial principles and Devin’s development of discipline.

Director Charles Stone III cuts loose with fortissimo fireworks, at one point pitting “Apache” and “Let Me Clear My Throat” against “Flight of the Bumblebee.” And attitude, style and skill power the esprit de corps of the big bass-rumble finale — the rare overtime moment earned by a sports movie, which “Drumline” very much resembles.

Even off the field, “Drumline” remains electric thanks to Cannon and Jones — both actors better known for comedy who let their stubbornness and determination crystallize into a two-way street of respect between elders and charges. Zoe Saldana (as Devin’s love interest) and Leonard Roberts (as his top-dog competition) also offer full-bodied characterizations in what could have been stock roles.

Lesser films might have pursued romantic rivalries or unnecessary lapses into violence, but “Drumline” maintained a driving cadence for the integrity of pursuing a “one band, one sound” ideal.

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