Reviewed by: Susan Quirk
|Featuring:||Columbus Short, Brian J. White, Ne-Yo, Courtney B. Vance, Meagan Good|
|Producer:||Rob Hardy, William Packer|
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