Stomp the Yard
Dir. Sylvain White
Premiered January 12, 2007
This review was a mistake.
During the 2000s, there was this vogue for movies about competetive dancing. The first one I remember was Bring It On, but the real tipping point into ubiquity was called You Got Served. I had confused this movie with that one.
You Got Served came out in 2004, and pitted a black dance group against a white one (I’m not sure whether this was meant to evoke issues of racism or it just made it easier to tell the heroes and villains apart). I never saw it, and by all accounts it’s awful, but at the time it was a decent hit, and the marketing for it stuck in your head like a novelty song. Like this film, it also came out in January. So you may forgive my confusion.
In 2007, dancing simply wasn’t something most people did. Instead, the vogue at the time was to stand silently at attention like that one scene in The Madness of King George. Dancing was a specialized skill performed by competitive semi-professionals, and the main style of competitive dance was Krumping, a combination of flips, randomly flailing like an inflatable tube man, and re-enacting Mortal Kombat, all in fast motion. This is something the Stomp the Yard captures pretty well, in the frantic, jittery style associated with cheap DSLR cameras. Most of the film isn’t nearly that energetic, but for some reason it’s all shot that way.
Columbus Short plays DJ Williams, an underground krumper who ropes his goody-goody brother (Chris Brown, in his first film role. Yeah.) into a major competition, only to lose him in a shootout by their rivals. Even if DJ’s brother wasn’t played by the standard-bearer of raging, psychopathic narcissism masquerading as sweetness, I still wouldn’t care, because the movie doesn’t care. And that’s the main problem.
After unfairly serving time for defending himself in the brawl, DJ is sent to his aunt and uncle in Georgia and starts taking classes at Not-Morehouse University, where people apparently still register for classes in person, on paper, in 2007. There, he is entranced by April Palmer (Meagan Good), who gets a sexy intro so half-assed that it’d make a great parody. Unfortunately for DJ, she’s inexplicably in a relationship with irredeemable asshole Grant (Darrin Henson), the elitist, self-appointed leader of one of the college’s two rival fraternities best known for a type of competitive step known as stomping the yard. DJ’s skills at the club earn him an invitation to pledge for the rival fraternity, though they take issue with his excessively street style.
My issue with Stomp the Yard is not with the genre. I’m sure you can make a good dance movie. But this movie does not give a shit. DJ’s a good guy in a bad situation, so he has no arc. The plot is flimsy and relies on tired old clichés and a wildly outdated understanding of social class. The actors plaing DJ’s frat brothers aren’t given much to do, but they have fun with it, and the dancing is actually pretty cool. But there’s a lot more to the film than that, and that’s the problem.
Also in Theaters:
- Justin Timberlake gives one of his first impressive performances in the otherwise mediocre crime drama Alpha Dog.
- The trailers for the critically-panned Primeval try to pass off its crocodile antagonist as a human. Not kidding.
- Sign this was made in 2007: The good guys are the ones dressed entirely in black. Butt-crack is still the new cleavage (though this is only implied, as Meagan Good’s wide shots are all tastefully in profile).
- Before we go any further, I want to say that I don’t think bad movies don’t take away from good movies. If that were the case, 2007 would be just as mediocre as any other year, because boy, do we have some doozies coming up.