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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
All Too Familiar
by Adam Hakari

Déjà Vu may have been out for a couple of months now, but I experienced some of that familiar feeling myself this weekend as I watched Stomp the Yard. This story, revolving around a group of youths who use "stepping" --  hip-hop dancing with tons of spastic movement -- as a means to prove their worth, seemed very similar to You Got Served, released three years ago, about a group of youths who, what else, used stepping as a means to prove their worth. Yes, I know studios often head back to the well in terms of stories, but when that well is as creatively dry as You Got Served, presenting the same stupid stuff in Stomp the Yard is downright insulting to viewers.

After the tragic death of his brother, young DJ (Columbus Short) attempts to move on with his life by enrolling at Georgia's Truth University. Once there, our protagonist, still suffering with bad memories of his brother's murder, has a difficult time adjusting to college life. He's also unhappy because of his unsuccessful attempts to woo gorgeous classmate April (Meagan Good). But after upstaging April's jerk of a boyfriend (Darrin Henson) in a stepping competition at a nightclub, DJ finds his skills on the dance floor desired by two rival fraternity stepping teams: the Wolves, seven-year stepping competition champions, and the Pythons, perennial runners-up who nevertheless stay true to the bonds of brotherhood. And with April slowly warming up to him, life is taking a turn for the better for our hero. Still, in the end, it's up to DJ to decide when to leave the past behind and whether he wants to pursue glory or form lifelong friendships in time for an upcoming stepping tournament.

Rize, a documentary released not too long ago, offered an unexpectedly intriguing look into the world of krumping (pretty much stepping, only with clown make-up). It focused on the beginnings of this type of dancing and those today who use it as their means of expression. Unfortunately, Stomp the Yard isn't so much about overcoming adversity and finding an artistic outlet through demonstrating physical prowess. Instead, it seems more interested in making a quick buck by having the cast dance around in the thick of a story that grows progressively stale and tiresome as it keeps piling on the corny melodrama. There's not a single moment that rings true in this film, and its complete lack of originality or spark proves that studios really don't care as long as movies like this can be made on the cheap to turn a profit.

It's almost as if Stomp the Yard tries to be five different movies in one: the Dance Movie, the Kid from the Wrong Side of the Tracks Movie, the College Movie, and a couple of other genres you've seen at least a few dozen times before  -- and done better at that. 

The ball gets rolling downhill right at the start, when DJ's brother is killed by a guy who lost to him in a dancing contest. A dancing contest? Movie characters have been done in for all sorts of reasons, but losing in a dance contest is one of the lamest explanations ever.  Making matters worse, the choreography emphasizes moves resembling epileptic fits, so even the dancing isn't worth getting excited about.

Stomp the Yard might have been simply another forgettable casualty of January's cinematic dumping grounds. However, thanks to the film's very last shot, which slaps African-American history in the face by including a stepping competition in the vision of   Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, Stomp the Yard solidifies its status as a movie that's not only bad but also incredibly misguided. 

MY RATING: * (out of ****)

(Released by Screen Gems and rated "PG-13" for scenes of violence, some sexual material and language.)

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