STOMP THE YARD
When DJ (Columbus Short), a troubled youth from Los Angeles, moves to Atlanta to attend Truth University, he discovers "stepping," the age-old style of dance traditionally done in African-American Fraternities, where teams demonstrate complex moves and create rhythmic sounds by using their bodies. DJ's raw talent and hip-hop inspired moves quickly place him at the center of a fierce rivalry between two fraternities, the winner of which will be determined in front of a sold-out arena at the annual stepping championships. But before he can help his teammates, he must battle his own demons and learn the true meaning of brotherhood.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Director Sylvain White is, wouldn't ya know it, black, son an American basketball player and French flight attendant, according to an online bio. He has worked at the cutting edge with the Propaganda Films stable with the likes of Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, and was generally regarded as a bright, emerging filmmaker. I mention this to put his work on Stomp the Yard in context and because I don't want my negative response to his film to go without a balancing element. He's clearly talented, but I wish he'd be less derivative.
The screenplay needs to be shaken out of its by-the-numbers comfort zone, especially considering the story is about breaking free of boundaries. The hand held camerawork is fighting the need for clarity of what's being shown. The heavy accents of jargon filled young blacks is sometimes just impenetrable. The structure is too rigidly bound by its genre; we are never surprised.
There is so much yet so little on the screen: so much movement and action, but so little to cling on to. So much angst, so little context. The college clashes of fraternity competition is a great backdrop for exploring human nature, but the film flails about with trite and tired romantic triangles, simplistic macho clashes and clunky story telling.
Ultimately it's a dance film, where Step Dancing (not to be confused with Line Dancing in any shape or form) is a mix of industrial tap [nods to Tap Dogs], hip hop, street theatre and some jazz influences. This could be exciting, but we are always in too tight to get enough overview, mashing the vision into a spray of meaningless blurs.
Young blacks who call each other 'nigger' will probably dig it, but Australian audiences might find Stomp The Yard a hard few yards to cross.
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STOMP THE YARD (M)
CAST: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Brian J. White, Laz Alonso, Valarie Pettiford, Jermaine Williams, Allan Louis, Harry J. Lennix
PRODUCER: William Packer
DIRECTOR: Sylvain White
SCRIPT: Robert Adetuyi, Gregory Anderson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Scott Kevan
EDITOR: David Checel
MUSIC: Tim Boland, Sam Retzer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jonathan A. Carlson
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Vic: April 5, 2007; other states April 12, 2007