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Movie Review

Stomp the Yard

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a scene of violence, some sexual material and language

Reviewed by: Susan Quirk
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens
Genre:
Drama, Musical, Performing Arts, Teen
Length:
1 hr. 55 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
January 12, 2007 (wide)
Copyright, Screen Gems
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Relevant Issues
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Dancing in the Bible

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Featuring: Columbus Short, Brian J. White, Ne-Yo, Courtney B. Vance, Meagan Good
Director: Sylvain White
Producer: Rob Hardy, William Packer
Distributor: Screen Gems

Enter the ring to “Stomp the Yard” and if the opposing dancers don’t kill you the audience might. On the mean streets of Los Angeles, J.D. (Columbus Short) and his brother lead a gang of Stompers, the name given for street step dancing. J.D.’s brother, eager to show off his individual stomping prowess, ignores J.D’'s warning not to vie for first prize in in a dance-off battle on the opposition gang’s turf. The post dance scuffle results in the shooting death of J.D.’s brother and a felony offence for J.D. Filled with guilt, J.D. takes the place of his now passed, college bound brother and enrolls in Truth University with the help of his Aunt (Valarie Pettiford) and Uncle (Harry J. Lennix).

The historical black university is steeped in “Greek” life, and although J.D. seems a bit too “ghetto” for these college kids, once his stepping skills become known, he is much sought after by the two top fraternities who compete each year for honors in a step dancing competition. J.D. initially sidesteps pressure to join in, the painful memories of dancing with his brother and the stiff old fashioned style of the frat boy steppers is more than he cares to deal with. However, when he catches the eye of sorority princess, April (Meagan Good) fitting into the college fraternity lifestyle begins to make some sense.

“Stomp the Yard” provides a glimpse into a world many may not know exists. Street stomping, in its raw form, no doubt effectively portrays the violent and sometimes profane world expressed in much rap music. The dancing in this movie, especially the scenes in the clubs and the stomping battles is very sexual and violent in nature. Many of the lyrics blend sexuality, violence and promiscuous behavior into an unhealthy stew of uncontrolled emotion. Part of a stomping contest is to get right into the face of your competitor and mock him. It is no coincidence that this kind of dancing results in violence. The primary function of dance from ancient times has been to express sensuality, worship or to celebrate victory in battle. The style of dance in this film seems to worship sensuality and celebrate the violence of the battle.

Aside from a few twists and turns, “Stomp the Yard” follows a predictable script much like the movie “Drumline” a few years back. The two opposing fraternities are identified by their leaders, one leader, full of honesty and integrity, and the other, a self promoting cheater. The climax takes place at a huge stepping convention with the two fraternities battling it out for the honor of first place in stepping.

Fraternities are given a lot of good publicity in this film. Even though it is evident that J.D. has been hazed through a ritual spanking, this abuse is given comic treatment. The analogy of the fraternity being much like a positive gang is given quite a bit of weight. I do not question that many college kids have good experiences in quality fraternities and benefit from this experience but membership in a fraternity is almost portrayed as J.D.’s salvation. This emphasis, I must question. As a Christian, I realize the most important brotherhood or sisterhood we can be involved with is within the body of Christ. Here, all are excepted regardless of race, gender, or talent.

Positive aspects found in this story are the importance of working together as a team and the necessity to put the individual ego into check . J.D. is a hard worker and gives college his best effort in order to please his mother and honor his dead brother. J.D.’s aunt and uncle welcome J.D. into their family like a child of their own. The contributions of important African American role models are honored in a school museum.

This film has numerous expressions of profanity, including using the Lord’s name in vain. Street talk and expressions used include multiple uses of the word b**ch. Woman are sexualized by exceptionally scanty clothing in many scenes. Condom use and lewd remarks about women are made. Dancers give each other the “finger” frequently and uncountable instances of crotch grabbing, grinding and freak dancing are exhibited. It is assumed that J.D. and his girlfriend have premarital sex and the morality of this action is never questioned. J.D.’s step dancing team recite the Lord’s prayer which seems sweet until you experience the dance they are asking God to bless.

As a lover of dance, I would have liked to recommend this film, however, aside from a few scenes of skilled stepping, there was little artistry in the dance on display. Unfortunately, “Stomp the Yard” takes far too many steps in the wrong direction.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate


Viewer Comments
Neutral—Stomp the yard was a very good movie. I would not recommend this movie for young viewers. There are some moments of profanity but overall the movie was really interesting. There are no sex scenes whatsoever. There is one scene of violence in the beginning of the film. There are some things in the movie that portray fraternity and sorority clubs at the college and stepping which is very common with these type of clubs. I don’t condone fraternities and sororities because they’re an idol god worship origin behind it that a lot of people are not aware of. Overall, it was very entertaining and encouraging film that has a lot lessons to learn.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Lana, age 30
Positive—While the plot was predictable at times overall the movie was very enjoyable. Stepping isn’t exactly an ESPN staple but after viewing the movie one soon learns the feat is demanding and for the gifted few. From a Christian perspective there’s plenty of moments that are clearly devoid of Christian inspiration but that’s something one expects when tapping into Hollywood’s playground. With a PG-13 rating though there aren’t the obligatory partial nude scenes nor profanity-laced tirades. If crotch-grabbing has the propensity to… nevermind.

So why the positive rating? The humility birthed in several of the characters put it over the top. From the star—DJ, to his girlfriend, the girlfriend’s father/antagonist, DJ’s senior frat brother and other minor characters, there was a sense of refreshment to see one of God’s character traits being fleshed out in characters devoid of a relationship with Jesus Christ. DJ was also not shy about pursuing the girl that caught his eye. While the relationship advances way to fast ultimately he respects her in a physical sense and takes on the role of protector. In an era where feminine male characters dominate in the visual media it was refreshing to see a more biblically-defined male-female relationship. DJ also allows himself to be extricated from a bad environment and reluctantly goes to college to try and better his life. Let’s give “Stomp the Yard” 3 out of 4 stars.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Scott Parrish, age 47
Neutral—I am in a sorority and found this film to be very well done. While there is some moderate foul language and the one scene of violence at the begining, I did not find this move to be in poor taste. From a Christian aspect, it was a movie that I would take my other Christian friends to see—in fact, we find it very interesting to discuss from a Christian aspect the way movies are portrayed and filmed. I would not reccomend it for younger viewers, even under the age of 17, because of some of the content (sexual, although there are no sex scenes, and profanity) but if you are a Christian who knows they can go into the world and see a movie that may have some mildly offensive material and not let it influence you, then I reccomend it!

As for an earlier comment made by a woman who believes fraternities and sororities are founded in idol worship: Please make sure you do your homework on this one. I am in a Methodist-based sorority where strong Christian morals and beliefs are upheld in our every day activities and practices (prayer at every meeting, foundations laid from Biblical text, scripture reference in what we practice, etc.)--and I am not in a local chapter, I am in a National Panhellenic Sorority (the second one ever established, to be more specific). So please do not assume that all fraternities and sororities have poor morals and are what the media stereotypically shows. We are certainly not all like that! And please do not let that belief sway you from seeing what could be a very good movie!
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Melissa Arbaugh, age 21
Comments from young people
Negative—My friends decided to go to this movie without my opinion. I would never have opted to go in the first place. But I went, and I wish I wouldn’t have. Besides the fact that they glamourize “gangs” and gang violence, the lead character is also sexually immoral. But even moral issues aside the movie was just plain boring. It was fairly predictable and mostly just scattered camera shots of stomping. I would NOT recommend this movie.
My Ratings: Average / 3½
—Malia, age 14
Positive—Overall, I thought this movie was pretty good. I went to it to see the dancing, or the “stomp,” and that is surely what I got. The plot was quite predictable and cheesy, but I went into it expecting that because I knew the goal was to make a movie about the dancing, not about a great plot. The cinematography was wild; at some points I was really dizzy from the number of different camera shots in a matter of seconds, but that was mostly in the beginning scene. There was not much objectionable content; I don’t think there was any profanity, no sex or nudity, just a few middle fingers shot up during different parts of the movie. My favorite part was in one scene where the team was getting ready to go on stage, and they were all in a huddle together saying the Lord’s Prayer. That was really neat.

So, overall, the dancing in the movie was great. I would certainly not go see it if you are trying to see a great movie altogether, but if you are interested in stomp dancing, I would recommend it.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Emily, age 17
Comment
I was once a member of the first black sorority, and I renounced my letter because of all the pagan traditions. So this movie is not for Christians, because it brings glory to “Greek” Life.
My Ratings: Offensive / 1
—Nakia, age 23