STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $28.95
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
• Commentary by director Sylvain White.
• "Battles. Rivals. Brothers." – The Story of Stomp The Yard featurette
• Bonus Dance Sequences: Get Buck & Opening Battle
• Deleted scene: The Clean Up
• Gag Reel

The Pitch

Homies be steppin’.

The Humans

Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Henson, Brian J. White, Laz Alonso, Chris Brown.

"You better bring it, homey!"
"Oh, I’ll bring it, but can you take it?"
"I can take it if you can handle it."
"I can handle anything if you can dish it."
"Oh don’t worry, when I dish, you’ll know it."
"Yeah? Well…uh, what were we talking about?"

The Nutshell

When his younger brother is killed after their troupe wins a local dance battle in LA, cocky street dancer DJ (Short) relocates to live with his aunt and uncle and to attend college at Truth University in Atlanta. There he quickly finds himself drawn to the provost’s daughter, April (Good), who happens to be the girlfriend of Grant (Henson), who’s a stepper for Mu Gamma. Mu Gamma is one of two rival fraternities (the other being Theta Nu) who annually compete in a national stepping competition, which Mu Gamma has dominated. After winning a dance battle against Grant, DJ finds himself courted by both fraternities: Mu Gamma to continue their winning ways, and Theta Nu to finally break Mu Gamma’s stranglehold on the title. In the process, and through his pursuit of April, DJ, who frequently shoots off his mouth, manages to make himself an enemy of Grant and Mu Gamma. When DJ decides to pledge Theta Nu, the battle is on for the stepping championship, as well as for April and DJ’s self redemption from his past.

"Hey, this water aeobics is easier than I thought…"

The Lowdown

Stomp The Yard is the latest in a long line of teen coming of age movies, especially the very recent ones with emphasis on black teens who engage in various competitions centered around hip hop, be it dance or music. Now that’s fine that movies like this are being made, lord knows there’ll always be a market for them, but I’ll be damned if they’re not all turning out to be the exact same movie. The two examples that immediately come to mind are Drumline and You Got Served. A good tagline for STY would be that it’s those two movies meet one another and I can’t think off the top of my head that any other two movies would combine to make a third as completely as these.

There’s a Civil War times African American situational joke here that even I, as part African American, wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

First of all, STY more or less follows the exact same formula of Drumline and Served: cocky young dancer/musician/singer has an incredible talent in his particular field and isn’t afraid to show it through battling. In Drumline’s case, it’s Nick Cannon who’s a drumming savant who goes to college and in Served, it’s real life brothers Omarion and Marques Houston who are the best street dancers in LA. STY features DJ, a street dancer who can bust it out better than anyone, and his dancing is exceeded only by his mouth. He leads a troupe with his brother, Duron (Chris Brown), and battles the wrong group, which ends in Duron getting too familiar with a bullet. This is a very similar set up to Served, minus the bullet part. So then, like Nick Cannon’s Devon in Drumline, DJ finds himself in a historically black college, making waves and pursuing the hottest thing he lays eyes on.

Meagan Good? Hardly. Meagan Great? Don’t think so. Meagan Goddamn! Yep, we have a winner.

There are several continuing similarities between STY and either Drumline or Served, but where they all converge is in the following: protagonist(s) seeks to be the best in his field, is brash, learns to stop being a loner and becomes team player, leads group in competition, wins, is redeemed in some form or another. And where they all follow the exact same playbook is that said competition is going to end in a tie, and the two rival groups have a smackdown session to hammer out a victor. Usually there’s one representative of the rival group that the protagonist has to have it out with mano a mano in the heat of battle and bitchslap him figuratively wit his skills. Here it’s DJ and Grant. Add those up, change a couple notes here and there, and you have pretty much any one of these three movies.

"Anybody else getting a Rhythm Nation vibe here?"
"You know, I wasn’t going to say anything, but…"

Now having established all that, Stomp the Yard does have a several things going for it, particularly Short’s performance and the phenomenal dancing/stepping scenes. Short comes from a dance and choreography background, having worked with Brandy and Britney Spears in the past. He’s been in a couple of these types of films, including the aforementioned Served and Save The Last Dance 2, but to my knowledge, this is the first time he’s gotten to headline, and he acquits himself rather nicely, with his acting being right up there with his dancing, and he’s a phenomenal dancer. The supporting cast are all for the most part fine, especially Brian J. White, who plays DJ’s mentor and leader of the Theta Nu frat.

Definitely one of the more unusual plot points in Stomp the Yard was the life-size Stratego reenactment…

The films does tend to get bogged down in the B-story of DJ’s clash with the provost, not only for dating his daughter, but for being related to his aunt Jackie (Valarie Pettiford), who happened to have dumped said provost years before, which he hasn’t forgotten. Another problem that Stomp The Yard has is that it follows the tired bit of having the bad guy being almost Snidely Whiplash bad. Grant competes so fiercely with DJ that he ends up even having to steal his moves via secret videotape sessions. If he had a handlebar moustache, he damn sure would have been twirling it. Drumline managed to establish a fierce rivalry between Cannon and Leonard Roberts, who portrayed the lead drummer, without having to stoop to cliches. STY could have benefited from less caricaturization of Henson’s character and just shown him as a competitive brother who wanted all the same things that DJ did. So if you can handle having seen this film several times recently in other films, you’ll probably like it.

Nice to see The Warriors still getting work…

The Package

Have to acknowledge that this film looks incredible. As I said, this film is carried by the ridiculous dancing and director Sylvain White (I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) stages some great scenes of the stepping, and knows how to shoot them, using good camerawork and effective editing (emphasis on the not overcutting) to let the dancers show their stuff. He also provides a commentary and there’s a pretty good featurette, "Battles. Rivals. Brothers." Which covers the obligatory behind the scenes. I thought it was a little interesting that White kept the two groups playing the dueling fraternities separated at all possible times and instilled a real life rivalry that comes out in the battle scenes. There’s also three deleted / extended dance sequences: including the opening and closing dance battle scenes; and a gag reel rounds out the offerings.

…and ole Sherman Hemsley too…"
7.0 out of 10