Drumline (film)

Drumline is a 2002 American film directed by Charles Stone III. The screenplay, which was inspired by The Southwest Dekalb High School Drumline or known as SWD written by Tina Gordon Chism and Shawn Schepps. The story is about a young drummer from New York, played by Nick Cannon, who enters the fictional Atlanta A&T University and bumps heads with the leader of his new school's drum sectionals. Zoe Saldana, and Orlando Jones co-star.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byCharles Stone III
Produced byDallas Austin
Timothy M. Bourne
Wendy Finerman
Jody Gerson
Greg Mooradian
Written byTina Gordon Chism
Shawn Schepps
StarringNick Cannon
Zoe Saldana
Orlando Jones
Music byJohn Powell
CinematographyShane Hurlbut
Edited byPatricia Bowers
Bill Pankow
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • December 13, 2002 (2002-12-13)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$57,588,485

The film opened to highly positive reviews with most critics liking the energy and playing of the musical bands in the film. It was a success at the box office, earning over $56 million in the U.S., and almost $1.2 million in foreign markets.


The story concerns Devon Miles (Nick Cannon), a teen who has just graduated from high school in New York City. Upon graduating, Devon heads to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Atlanta A&T University, a historically black college that takes enormous pride in its marching band. Devon was personally invited to attend on full scholarship by Dr. Lee (Orlando Jones), head of the band, for his prodigious talents. The A&T band separates itself from its competitors by requiring all members to read music, by focusing on various styles of music rather than what music is currently popular on the radio, and by dedication to the teamwork emphasized "one band, one sound" concept. The band has a preseason that is similar to an athletic team's induction in that it is very physically and mentally difficult. It challenges all recruits to push themselves past what they previously thought were their limits. At the end of preseason, the musicians audition for spots on the field, and Devon is the only freshman to make P1, the highest level player. While going through his rigorous process, Devon also finds time to romance an upperclassman dancer, Laila (Zoe Saldana).

College life starts well for Devon, as he has the girl and a spot on the field. Things begin to sour when Sean, Devon's percussion leader, begins to grow weary of Devon's cocky attitude. Sean later challenges Devon to take a solo in his first game, believing the freshman will panic and be embarrassed in front of everyone. Sean is shocked when Devon takes the solo and is subsequently humiliated. This sets up some tension in the drumline which is exacerbated when Dr. Lee is told by President Wagner (Afemo Omilami), the school's president, to change his focus from music to entertainment or lose his funding. Lee does not want to give Devon more playing time because he feels Devon's attitude and respect are lacking. The situation further deteriorates when it is revealed that Devon cannot read music. Devon is demoted to P4 by Dr. Lee until he learns, then later put back on P1 when Wagner pressures Dr. Lee to do so. However, after inflaming a melee with a visiting band at A&T's homecoming game after Devon plays on a opposing band member's drum (a serious insult in drumline mythos), Devon is finally kicked out of the band by Dr. Lee. The fight also harms his relationship with Laila as she is embarrassed to introduce him to her parents, who attended the game.

Devon contacts A&T's rival school Morris Brown College, to discuss playing for their band next season. Mr. Wade (J. Anthony Brown), Brown's band leader, says that Devon does not need to know how to read music and will likely get a full scholarship and a good position on the drumline. When Wade wants to know what Dr. Lee is planning for the BET Big Southern Classic (a large competition of college bands), Devon realizes that his heart and honor are still with the A&T band. He rejects the scholarship offer from the rival band and returns to A&T.

Though Devon is still not playing for the band, he cannot give up his drumming. He is sent cassette tapes from his estranged father and gets some ideas for new drum arrangements. He and Sean have a final confrontation that clears the air and they begin to work together. The two present their idea for an entrance cadence to Dr. Lee who decides they will be used during the Classic. Devon helps the drumline prepare and patches up his relationship with Laila.

At the Classic, the bands are shown performing a mixture of popular songs. Morris Brown's band even gets rapper Petey Pablo to perform during their routine. A&T is not fazed by this and performs their mix of retro and current sounds. A tie results and the Morris Brown and A&T drumlines face off. Dr. Lee tells Devon he can play for this face-off, showing his faith in Devon's improved character and in thanks for all the hard work he has done in getting the band ready for the Classic. Morris Brown goes first and A&T responds. Morris Brown's second cadence includes their snares moving forward and playing on the A&T drums (the same move that incited the fight at A&T's homecoming game), then throwing down their sticks. The A&T line manages to hold their composure in the face of the insult. They play their cadence and in the middle throw down their sticks, mimicking the Morris Brown actions, but then the entire line pulls out another set of sticks and continues playing. They end their routine in the faces of the Morris Brown drumline, but instead of playing on their drums, the line all drop their sticks onto the other drumline's drums. The judges award the win to A&T.



Home media

The film was released on VHS[1] and in fullscreen and widescreen editions on DVD April 19, 2003.[2][3] A "special edition" DVD version of the film was later released on December 6, 2011.[4] The film was released in the Blu-ray format on January 27, 2009.[5]

Critical reception

The film was given 3½ stars at Allmovie, where reviewer Josh Ralske gave positive note to the performances of the main cast and Stone's direction but still called the plot "formulaic."[6] At Metacritic, the film has averaged a 63 out of 100 rating from critics, based on 28 reviews.[7] On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 82% based on reviews from 84 critics.[8] It is tied for the #98 spot on the site's list of 100 Best Films of 2002.[9] At Yahoo! Movies, the film has been given a B average based on 14 reviews from critics, and a B- by over 30,000 users.[10]

Natasha Grant at BlackFilm.com called the movie "irresistible," "wonderfully crafted," and "fascinating."[11] For the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, giving the film credit as being "entertaining" and "admirable."[12] At the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan believed the film to be entertaining, although he states that the plot is "way-familiar."[13] Writing for The New York Times, A. O. Scott, while feeling the movie had a "skimpy, hectic plot," still believed the film to be "bouncy, boisterous and charming," and the play of the marching bands to be "downright thrilling."[14] Mike Clark at USA Today awarded the film two and a half of four stars, feeling the film to be conventional but competent, and giving particular positive note to J. Anthony Brown, Orlando Jones, and Leonard Roberts performances.[15] One of the films negative reviews came courtesy of David Levine at FilmCritic.com. Giving the film 2.5 out of 5 stars, Levine called the screenplay "standard formula" and "predictable," and went on to say that it was unfunny as well as uninspiring. He said he was impressed by the precision and artistry of the marching bands.[16]

Awards and nominations

Year Award[17] Category Recipients Result
2003 Black Reel Awards Best Breakthrough Performance, Viewer's Choice Nick Cannon Nominated
Best Director (Theatrical) Charles Stone III Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Best Sound Editing in a Feature (Music/Musical) Bunny Andrews, Mick Gormaley, Nicholas Meyers, Lee Scott Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Kiss Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana Nominated
Breakthrough Male Performance Nick Cannon Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Motion Picture Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Overlooked Film of the Year Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie, Drama/Action Adventure Nominated
Choice Movie Actor, Drama/Action Adventure Nick Cannon Nominated
Choice Movie Breakout Star, Male Nick Cannon Nominated


Drumline (soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedDecember 10, 2002
GenreHip hop, R&B
ProducerDallas Austin (exec.), Big Bob, InfaRed, Jazze Pha, Cliff Jones, Alicia Keys, John Powell
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic link

The film's soundtrack was also executive produced by Dallas Austin. Released December 10, 2002,[18] it reached the number 61 spot on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, number 10 on the Top Soundtracks list, and peaked at 133 on The Billboard 200 in 2003.[19] The tracks "I Want a Girl Like You," "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)," and "Club Banger" were all released as singles, with JC Chasez' "Blowin' Me Up..." obtaining the highest level of success, reaching the number 24 spot on the Canadian Singles Chart, number 17 on the Top 40 Tracks chart, and number 14 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart.[20]

# Title Performer(s) Time
1 "D&K Cadence" A&T Drumline "The Senate" 0:28
2 "Been Away" Q "The Kid" feat. Jermaine Dupri 3:50
3 "I Want a Girl Like You"* Joe feat. Jadakiss 3:59
4 "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)"* JC Chasez 4:50
5 "Club Banger"* Petey Pablo 3:49
6 "Faithful to You" Syleena Johnson 3:30
7 "Butterflyz [Krucialkeys Remix]" Alicia Keys 4:12
8 "Uh Oh" Monica 3:39
9 "My Own Thing" Raheem DeVaughn 3:58
10 "What You Waitin' For" Nivea 3:35
11 "Peanuts" Nappy Roots 4:35
12 "I'm Scared of You" Nick Cannon 4:00
13 "Shout It Out" Too $hort & Bun B 4:47
14 "Let's Go" Trick Daddy feat. Deuce Poppi, Tre + 6, and Unda Presha 4:11
15 "Marching Band Medley" James Brown Bruno Mars Petey Pablo Bethune Cookman College Marching Band, A&T 4:04
16 "The Classic Drum Battle" Morris Brown College Drumline, A&T Drumline "The Senate" 4:04

(*): Indicates songs were released as singles

See also


  1. "Drumline (2002)". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  2. "Drumline (Full Screen Edition) (2002)". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  3. "Drumline (Widescreen) (2002)". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  4. "Drumline (Special Edition) (2002)". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  5. "Drumline [Blu-ray] (2002)". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  6. Ralske, Josh. "allmovie ((( Drumline > Review )))". Allmovie. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  7. "Drumline (2002): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  8. "Drumline". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  9. "ROTTEN TOMATOES: Top Movies: Golden Globes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  10. "Drumline (2002) - Movie Info - Yahoo! Movies". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  11. Grant, Natasha (December 2002). "December 2002; Drumline : The Pulse of the Band". BlackFilm.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  12. Ebert, Roger (December 13, 2002). "Drumline :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved May 22, 2008.
  13. Turan, Kenneth (December 13, 2002). "'Drumline' - MOVIE REVIEW - Los Angeles Times - calendarlive.com". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  14. Scott, A. O. (December 13, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; A Rousing Halftime Show Bigger Than the Game - New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  15. Clark, Mike (December 13, 2002). "USATODAY.com - 'Drumline' rolls in cliches but it keeps toes tapping". USA Today. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  16. Levine, David (2002). "Drumline Movie Review, DVD Release - Filmcritic.com". Filmcritic.com. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  17. "Drumline (2002) - Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
  18. "Amazon.com: Drumline: Various Artists: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  19. "allmusic ((( Drumline > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". allmusic. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  20. "allmusic ((( Drumline > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". allmusic. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
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