Attacking novel subject matter with a battle-tested arsenal of clichés, Drumline takes a not-so-penetrating look at the high-stakes, no-holds-barred world of competitive collegiate marching bands. Essentially Bring It On minus the effervescence, star power, energy, and brisk pace—in other words, everything that made it bearable—Drumline stars Nick Cannon (of The Nick Cannon Show fame) as a Harlem drummer who wins a scholarship to a Southern university renowned for its marching band. Cannon anticipates a smooth ascent to the top of the marching-band hierarchy, but is instead subjected to military-style discipline and prissy band director Orlando Jones, who steadfastly resists his efforts to bring in da funk and/or da noise. Gradually, Cannon and Jones learn to respect and appreciate each other, but only after a seeming eternity has elapsed. Because of the anti-authoritarian leanings of their target audience, teen movies tend to identify with brash individualists out to shake up staid authority with their zany shenanigans. Drumline inexplicably seems to side with Jones, however, which is a big part of the reason it feels so joyless and rote. Trumpeting conformity and teamwork over individuality and spontaneity, Drumline lacks the imagination to do more than lazily connect the dots separating its plot points. Burdened by a sluggish pace, uncharismatic leads, unlikable characters, and unnecessary subplots, Drumline feels about twice as long as it actually is. The film only comes alive during its nonsensical but energetic finale, but even that's undermined by gratuitous plugs for BET (which might as well have commissioned the film as an infomercial) and a cameo from Petey Pablo that ranks as the least auspicious film appearance by a rapper since Lil' Kim loitered around in the background of She's All That.
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