The Austin Chronicle

Stomp the Yard

Rated PG-13, 109 min. Directed by Sylvain White. Starring Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Henson, Brian J. White, Laz Alonso, Valarie Pettiford, Jermaine Williams, Allan Louis, Harry J. Lennix.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Jan. 12, 2007

Equal parts Footloose, Drumline, and 1,001 other movies about a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks who’s long on talent and rebelliousness but short on social graces and opportunity, Stomp the Yard won’t ever be accused of breaking new ground; it’s too busy entertaining to worry about being original. The film’s hero, D.J. (Short), is a dancing prodigy with a chip on his shoulder, and when we first meet him, he’s tearing up the underground dance-battle scene in Los Angeles with an array of moves that would have given Gene Kelly a coronary. I don’t know if there is an actual underground dance-battle scene in Los Angeles, but if there is, I can only hope it’s half as gritty, intimidating, and populated by pit bulls as the one in this movie. Unfortunately, these dance-floor clashes – like those between the Jets and Sharks 50 years ago – can quickly turn into real ones, and after his brother is murdered by a rival gang of hoofers, D.J. is sent to fictional Truth University in Atlanta, where he quickly catches the eye of the gorgeous April (Good) and just as quickly runs afoul of her angry boyfriend, Grant (Henson). In addition to being rich, pompous, and conniving, Grant is also one of the leaders of Mu Gamma Xi, a fraternity whose pre-eminence in “stepping” – a highly physical, rhythmic, almost confrontational form of group dancing – is so unquestioned that only an outsider entirely ignorant of school tradition but blessed with a deep well of bravado would dare challenge it. One can only wonder who that outsider might be. Anyone who’s spent any time at the movies will realize 15 minutes into Stomp the Yard that a dance-off is brewing between Grant and DJ, between old and new, and the path the film takes to get there is littered with clichés and shopworn manipulations of its audience’s most basic emotional vulnerabilities. But the intervening dance sequences are so exciting, so captivating, so full of life, it’s almost possible to forget you’ve seen this movie a hundred times before.

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