Stomp the Yard Review
Director Sylvain White doesn't have too much of a track history but one of his previous films, Trois 3: The Escort, had elements of hip-hop so to that degree he has some visual exposure to the scene.
DJ (Columbus Short) is the main man in a body popping hip-hop street gang and the movie opens with his crew competing for money against their rivals. After winning and deciding to go double or quits they win again. The opposing crew become a little annoyed and in the dark alleys behind the competition ring they demand their cash back. Tempers flare and DJ's younger brother Duron is murdered in the following melee.
DJ ultimately finds himself enrolled at Truth University, an educational establishment in Georgia. Immediately he becomes besotted by April (Meagan Good) and tries to win her favour. April however is already entwined with Grant (Darrin Dewitt Henson) who just happens to be lead stepper for the Mu Gamma Xi team. After seeing DJ strut his stuff both Mu Gamma Xi and challengers Theta Nu Theta, headed by Sylvester (Brian White), seek the attention of DJ trying to enroll him into their respective fraternities so he can help Mu retain and Theta win the national stepping competition.
DJ signs up with the underdog Theta team, trains with them and ultimately imparts upon them some of his more street wise moves in the hope that a variant of step and body popping will give them the edge in the forthcoming championships. Let battle commence.
When this landed in the cinema room I really didn't know what to expect. A street culture I'm not familiar with, a musical genre I actively dislike, a dance piece which have to be something special to pull it off on the big screen. So trepidation even before the disc was slotted into the player.
At the end of the film I was glad I had watched this, not from the story or character point of view... both of which are presented by the numbers and have been seen many times in the past. What caught me here was the choreography and execution of the dance routines on show. From the dark, almost intimidating, street dance at the start, the stepping as performed by Mu and Theta and at the end the competition pieces by the two rival teams.
Clichéd characters from the bad boy trying to make a go of it, the woman he desires who is already attached to a potential rival offer up no real form of substance. When DJ learns that April is with Grant and that Grant feels his troupe are far superior to all else you know that in the end he'll win both the girl and the trophy. So please don't be expecting any deviation from these simple characters.
The plot itself, rotating around the pursuit of April, where DJ joins Theta to channel his obvious talents again is pretty one-dimensional. You know he'll team up with the underdogs, you know he'll move them away from traditional step incorporating some well defined street moves and in the end you know that he'll help them pick up the trophy at the end. It's signalled as soon as the two fraternities vie for his talent. Yes fraternities are brought to the fore once again in an American college movie but this is about as far away from Animal House as you could possibly imagine.
All of the actors obviously come from a dance background and you cannot fault the heart and soul they put into this movie. The dance routines themselves are fast, and inventive with more than a few bruises to show for the efforts I would imagine. Their acting is up to the task in hand and allows the viewer to become attached to their desires. Direction is kept at a steady pace, even knowing the unfolding storyline, so the viewer never really becomes bored.
Ultimately although on the face of it Stomp the Yard might not seem like a movie you would rush out to see or buy, and for myself I would generally stay clear of this type of disc, it's not too bad. Not great but no turkey either and a pleasant enough watch of an evening, if only to marvel at the contortions these dancers are capable of.