The urban dance battle that opens Stomp the Yard appears to be patronized by everyone in Los Angeles’s inner city—pimps, bitches, cholos with tear-shaped tats on their faces, even a midget. When the film’s action hastily shifts to Atlanta, in and around the prestigious (and fictional) Truth University, screenwriter Robert Adetuyi maintains this spirit of all-inclusiveness by pumping every tired frat-war cliché we’ve seen from Revenge of the Nerds to Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj into this story about a “troubled” youth trying to fly right in the face of adversary. Earnestness mitigates the story’s predictable chain of events: DJ (Columbus Short) pisses off the star stepper for Mu Gamm Xi, then unintentionally macks on the guy’s girlfriend, which leads to an angry dance-off between the two that exists mostly to expose DJ’s talents as a streetwise dancer, for whom Mu Gamm Xi and its rival fraternity will volley for over the course of the film. Adetuyi may promote togetherness but he only pays lip service to African-American history and identity, as in the scene where DJ steps into Heritage Hall (where else?) and has a corny epiphany about whether to join Theta Nu Theta while staring at pictures of Esther Rolle, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others—as if the boy’s struggle and ultimate perseverance had anything to do with black pride. Operating on a different but equally desperate playing field is director Sylvain White, who finds something fierce in the film’s stepping, a modern impression of the South African gumboot dance. His camera zips up and down, right and left, always rapturously in-sync with the sick moves his actors bring to the project. The film is best when it’s gaga for the extreme poses the human body can strike to the rhythm of a phat beat but stumbles whenever it fraudulently gives daily life at Truth University the sound and sheen of a Coldplay music video.
- Screen Gems
- 109 min
- Sylvain White
- Robert Adetuyi
- Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Henson, Brian White, Laz Alonso, Valarie Pettiford, Harry J. Lennix, Chris Brown, Jermaine Williams
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