I knew from the DVD cover that this movie wasn’t for me. Why, do you ask?
The white guy? Photoshopped in. Check his leg.
Basically, it’s your standard prodigy from the streets movie with a little wacky college hi-jinks and a liberal dose of SOUL, if you know what I mean. I’m sorry, but as a white kid who grew up playing NES Play Action Football in the middle of Wisconsin… I just can’t get into a movie like this. It’s not to say that I’m somehow too good for the movie; far from it. I’m very aware of just how lame and “white” I am, and as a result of that when people start pulling out the aw hell naw’s and the y’all’s trippin’s, I just get the feeling that the movie was custom made not to be watched by one of my pasty ilk. It was the true mark of quality in the early In Living Color seasons that they would make fun of everyone equally: in movies like this, I know it’s not being marketed to me, and the movie actively makes that point. They even go so far as to jokingly refer to the white guy up there (who, by the way, only has a small part and is half Pakistani) as “Affirmative Action.” I just got the feeling through the whole movie that I was missing out on something. Even when it gets to the movie’s bread and butter of hot stick-on-skin action (with a drum, you pervs) I still felt like I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it. The movie seemed to be saying Pack up yo’ carpetbag, whiteboy. This ain’t no movie for you.
The drumming is incredible and, speaking as someone who has no instrumental talent, I’m insanely jealous. The band music is good, particularly the stuff held to by the “lame” band director played by Orlando “Show Us Your Can” Jones. You see, he’s lame because he doesn’t want the college band to play hip hop. What a lame-o! Stay out of this movie, Honky! I sat there and watched folk play “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a trumpet, absolutely gobsmacked. That’s an amazing thing to see and hear. But, of course, that’s Uncle Tom’s music, so it’s lame, and so am I. The movie shuts me out again, even though Jones performance is really good. Not good enough to keep me from yelling “There’s always time for lubricant!” once or twice… but still, solid chops here. I can’t say the same for Mr. Mariah Carey, who goes through the movie pursing his lips and swinging the chip on his shoulder around like a damned morning star. If he would just play by the rule once instead of having to be the “talented, but troubled genius” all the time, the movie would have a lot less conflict… and I think I just answered my own question, there.
If you were in band, you’ll love this movie. I was even pleasantly surprised that the big climax was actually a team effort, as opposed to most “inspiring” movies like this where they have the team win… usually due to one person’s success. Nick Cannon did not feature into the final confrontation at all, aside from being un-fired from the band for a THIRD TIME to participate as part of the team. Jeez, how many chances does a kid get? Still, you can tell that the movie really wanted to show how good these bands are… and they are. Watch it for that, if nothing else, and enjoy the usually comical Orland Jones pulling off a surprisingly good serious performance. Unfortunately, every time I started to get invested in the movie some rump-shaking tune would come thumping in, or someone would start deep-frying catfish in their dorm, and I was reminded that this movie wasn’t for me. Which is a shame, because some parts of it are really good.
If you’re a whitey-white-whiteboy like myself, you’ll find yourself watching this movie in Bizarro world, where everything you think would be good is bad and vice versa. But hey, it’s a learning experience for me and it helps me understand just a little bit the world my wife came from and, again, the actual music (that is, the BAND music) is mind-blowingly good at times.
And then some schmucks from BET show up and I’m reminded again. Guess I’d better go back to my showing of State Fair or something. I hate it when a movie is cooler than me.