Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Fox 2000 Pictures
Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Runtime: 118 Min
Size: 50 GB
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: January 27, 2009
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: AVC @ 34 Mbps
English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French Dolby
English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean & Thai
• Theatrical (118 minutes) & Extended (122 minutes) cuts.
• Audio Commentary by Director Charles Stone
• Half Time Heroes Featurette (14:02)
• Anatomy of a Drumline Featurette (09:28)
• The Real Battle of the Bands Featurette (19:01)
• 4 Deleted Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary (ca.
Devon Miles (Nick Cannon) has just graduated high school in
New York, prideful that he has accomplished this without
drugs, arrests, or any help from his deadbeat dad. He also
has a talent for drumming, enough for him to have been
tapped by Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones) for a spot in his
celebrated, if fictitious, marching band at Atlanta A&T
University, along with the full scholarship that goes with
it. Pride seems to be the name of his game. Devon might as
well have graduated from Pride and Attitude High School -
In his way, Devon reminds us of Zack Mayo. Zack may not have
had Devon's talent but he sure had similar father issues and
the entitlement that can accompany the feeling of rising
above whatever dad represents. Just as Zack was no
gentleman, Devon is no team player. And you can well imagine
how that's going to play in a marching band.
Devon enters the program as a trainee and is immediately at
loggerheads with his section chief, Sean Taylor (Leonard
Roberts), who recognizes Devon's talent, but isn't at all
happy about the spotlight that Devon carries with him at all
times or his competitive drive, which could ultimately
threaten his own status.
Dr. Lee is not without trouble of his own. The powers that
be have been pressuring him to alter his focus from music
and musicianship to razzle dazzle applied to whatever is
currently at the top of the charts. The crowd gets all
jazzed when the band from Morris Brown is front and center,
but sit respectfully when A&T plays The Flight of the Bumble
Bee. Dr. Lee is old fashioned enough that education has a
place even in a college band. It would appear to be an
Like any good sports movie, a battle of the bands situation
arises when the annual BET Classic pits the best of the best
southern college marching bands against each other in a
stadium-filling extravaganza. Dr. Lee is told he has to win
or else. But he feels a compromise is necessary, an
inevitability perhaps, that is brought into sharp focus when
it is learned that Devon can't read music.
At the time, Charles Stone was a relatively new filmmaker.
Drumline was only his second feature, and it demonstrates a
craft that rises above its predictable, lightweight script.
Given that Drumline is marketed as a "youth" movie, there is
relatively little here that gives into the sort of jock
humor and leering that often accompanies movies of the
genre. Note how Stone considers Laila (Zoe Saldana), the
upperclassman cheerleader who is the object of Devon's
romantic intentions: Laila is a whole person, whatever Devon
may think of her initially.
Most of the time, Stone and his photographer have a
respectful and colorful way with how they shoot the band,
whether in practice or on the field. I would have preferred
something more fanciful for the final drumline duel, but
it's a minor quibble about a finale that really nails it.
Shane Hurlbut's photography is solid, vibrant, emotionally
riveting. The Blu-ray image shows nary a stray artifact or
blemish to distract our attention. Though we are aware of
its filmic grain, the edge-enhancement reported for the DVD
is not a problem here.
Audio & Music:
The success of a movie like Drumline as a home theatre
experience rises or falls on its soundtrack. A band of over
a hundred musicians with brass and winds and all manner of
field percussionists needs to have a proper distinction of
timbres, credibility in terms of acoustical space, and
power. In this case, the function of the surrounds is to
nail the ambience rather than provide pinpoint
directionality. It would be curtains for this movie if
turning up the volume simply resulted in just so much squawk
and clatter. We should be grateful Fox was able to present
Drumline in an uncompressed DTS HD-Master Audio format, for
without it, all you have
is the last century's DVD. Of course, just because you have
a Blu-ray player and an HD display doesn't mean you will
reap the benefits.
Points off for the absence of a Play All option for the
brief deleted scenes. Otherwise, everything works.
Though all the featurettes are presented in 480p, they are
of high video quality. If we didn't know beforehand, we
learn in "Anatomy of a Drumline" that the movie is inspired
by the high school drumline adventures of Dallas Austin, the
movie's executive producer. (Austin also doubles as the
film's music producer.) In "The Real Battle of the Bands"
featurette, we see how the big band playoff was conceived
and choreographed from elements of bands foro a number of
southern colleges. In "Half Time Heroes" we visit the
real-life young men and women whose passion is it is to
train and play for their college marching band. It's a lot
of work, as we see here as well as in the movie. Charles
Stone's audio commentary is more about his thinking about
character and story and less about production. His comments
on the exorable images that make up the deleted scenes make
his points all the more so. You would think somewhere in the
bonus features someone would have made a big deal about how
the music was recorded here for I can't recall a band so
dynamically, yet accurately captured on video. Maybe I
missed the reference.
The original DVD was released in 2003 and reissued last
year. The movie itself may be a bit thin, but given its
intentions, it may surprise you. As to the video, few
Blu-rays make the case for high definition audio as well as
Drumline. While the image is good, the audio will knock your
socks off. Bookmark your favorite kickass band sequences and
you will have one serious demo disc.
January 26th, 2009