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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Drumline has some very strong language ("s--t" and more), mild references to drinking, and moderate references to sex, particularly comparing playing an instrument to making love. A character is "accused" of being a virgin. Nevertheless, the behavior of the characters is admirable. Laila makes it clear that she is interested in a boyfriend, not a brief encounter. Parents should also know that the movie addresses some racial discrimination concerns, as the one white student in the band is at first looked at with suspicion, but later accepted warmly.
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What's the story?
In DRUMLINE, Devon (Nick Cannon) is a spirited kid who wins a full scholarship to college for his drum playing. The school, the fictitious Atlanta A&T, has a world-class marching band that hasn't won the big competition sponsored by BET television, and the school's president has put a lot of pressure on the bandmaster, Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones), to do whatever it takes to beat cross-town rival (and real-life marching band champs), Morris Brown College. But Lee believes that his job is to teach his students about music and about character, even at the cost of losing. At the center of this argument is Devon, whose flashy style and buoyant self-confidence put him at odds with the band's most sacred commitment: "one band, one sound."
Is it any good?
This movie makes marching bands as soul-stirring as raise-the-roof gospel and more irresistibly, foot-stompingly, hip-hoppily thrilling than any video currently playing on MTV. John Philip Sousa and all of the Music Man's 76 Trombones never dreamed that marching bands could be this cool. Farewell to the nerdy reputation for "band camp."
Drumline is about more than music, too. The band numbers themselves would be more than worth the price of admission, but the story and the characters hold their own. The story may be an old one, but the details of this unexplored world make it seem fresh and the very appealing performers make it seem real. Orlando Jones is one of the most talented comic actors in movies today, but in this decidedly un-comic role he manages to make Dr. Lee seem dedicated and principled without being priggish or inflexible. Cannon is outstanding, making us believe in Devon's talent and charm. Cannon makes Devon confident and vulnerable at the same time, and lets us see Devon's growth subtly and naturally.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the conflict Dr. Lee faces as he tries to do what is best for the band in Drumline. What does he decide is most important, and when, and why?
Why was it important to show Devon's confrontation with his father? How did that relationship affect his relationships with strong characters like Sean and Dr. Lee?
What is it about Devon that Laila is drawn to? Why?
What can you tell from the scene where each of the section leaders explains why that instrument is the most important? What does "one band, one sound" mean? Why does Dr. Lee think that honor and discipline are more important than talent?
- In theaters: December 13, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: April 15, 2003
- Cast: Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones, Zoe Saldana
- Director: Charles Stone
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Humility, Self-control, Teamwork
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: innuendo and language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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