In film, nothing signifies snobbery faster than sticking a characterwith a Greek fraternity or sorority pin. "Stomp the Yard" will have noneof it. The movie reveres the storied African-Americanfraternity/sorority tradition, and it takes great pains to mentioneveryone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Esther "Good Times" Rolle aspart of this legacy.
There's another tradition at play in "Stomp the Yard": the collegemusical. Along with Spike Lee's "School Daze," the film bears more thana passing resemblance to the 1947 version of "Good News." Sixty yearsago June Allyson offered French lessons to Peter Lawford, the leastlikely football hero in the annals of sport. "Stomp the Yard" findsMeagan Good tutoring the street-dancing hero in the subject of history,though those lips/those eyes keep getting in the way.
An L.A.-to-Atlanta transplant with a secret, DJ (Columbus Short) firstspies April (Good) in I'm-in-love-slow-mo at a drinking fountain duringfreshman registration. The fictional Truth University is ruled by thehighly competitive world of stepping, wherein movement and rhythm drillscombine gumboot-style African dance vocabulary with contemporaryflourishes. Hip-hop ace DJ doesn't like the step nonsense. He's more"ghetto," and has a dead brother to prove it. (Early on he's killed inan L.A. railyard rumble with rival hip-hop dancers.)
The lure of the fraternity universe proves too much, and DJ joins upwith Theta Nu Theta. Their chief step competition is Mu Gamma Xi, whoseleader (Darrin Henson) is also DJ's rival in love.
"Are we doing a step show or are we doing a rap video?" wonders one ofDJ's conservative Greek brothers, thrown by the new guy's moves. Likethe "Breakin'" films of the 1980s and the deathless lambada movies, "Stomp the Yard"is determined to mainstream its dance subgenre. The script by RobertAdetuyi was based on a script by Gregory Anderson, according to thefilm's unusual credits. This explains why "Stomp the Yard" contains 200percent of your daily requirement of cliche.
In the dance scenes director Sylvain White keeps cutting everybody offat the waist, and editor David Checel is so into speed and dazzle thesequences keep getting cut into tiny little bits. Yet the visual noiseis offset by the people on screen. Short and Good are long on charm, andDJ's uncle and aunt are played by Harry J. Lennix (always a pleasure)and Valarie Pettiford (a Fosse dance veteran herself).
The results are corny beyond measure. Yet there's something sweet aboutthem, in part because there's something sweet about hearing the line"Congratulations! Why didn't you tell me you pledged?" outside the realmof comedy.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times