ReelTalk Movie Reviews  

New Reviews
Jurassic World Domini...
Jazz Fest: A New Orle...
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue ...
more movies...
New Features
Poet Laureate of the Movies
Happy Birthday, Mel Brooks
Score Season #71
more features...
ReelTalk Home Page
Contact Us
Advertise on ReelTalk

Listen to Movie Addict Headquarters on internet talk radio Add to iTunes

Buy a copy of Confessions of a Movie Addict

Main Page Movies Features Log In/Manage

Rate This Movie
 Above AverageAbove AverageAbove AverageAbove Average
 Below AverageBelow Average
Rated 3 stars
by 1265 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Stepping into Heritage Hall
by John P. McCarthy

Stomp the Yard certainly busts all the expected moves. What surprises is how it equates success in stepping -- the competitive dance style practiced mainly in fraternities at historically African-American colleges -- with the achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. and other black pioneers. Because it's a formula flick, the message that there's no such thing as aiming too high comes off as a lofty sentiment more applicable to real life than the movies.

The dancing, performances, and milieu are fresh enough. Yet the plot about an outsider who melds his hip-hop dance style with the strict codes and high aspirations of academia is stale. The empowering sentiment loses impact because the movie's outcome is drained of any suspense.

Grieving for his slain brother, Los Angeles street hoofer DJ, understatedly portrayed by newcomer Columbus Short, gets a work scholarship to Atlanta's Truth University. Director Sylvain White has two feature credits but his experience helming music videos jumps out. Born in Paris to a French mother and American father, White studied at the Sorbonne and Pomona College where he evidently minored in You Got Served and the Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Stomp the Yard calms down when it leaves L.A. after an opening sequence in which DJ pressures his brother into a double-or-nothing dance-off with a shady gang. DJ gets less than nothing, since his bro is killed in a rumble. We see him arriving in Atlanta via Amtrak. His scholarship entails toiling for his uncle, the head gardener.

During registration DJ spots the woman of his dreams, April (the radiantly pouty Meagan Good), but of course she's taken. In fact, she's dating a bigwig at Mu Gamma Xi, the fraternity that holds the National Step Show Championship. Soon DJ wrangles a tutoring session with her and she's hitching rides on the back of his lawnmower. His attention doesn't sit well with her father however. As the Dean, he has the power to kick him out of school. Not only is DJ a poor scholarship boy from the inner city, he's perceived to be anti-intellectual and not destined for a career as a professional. As one frat boy exclaims: "It's the dance thug from the club."

Nevertheless, he's intrigued by the synchronized dancing practiced by the fraternities and is recruited by Mu Gamma's rival, Theta Nu Theta, to bolster their team. He pledges. And after a few grueling (and shirtless) practice sessions, some romantic and scholastic turbulence, he leads them to the finals. 

Whether or not you're familiar with the dance idiom, the frenetic editing makes it difficult to decipher the moves. Both hip-hop and stepping are outlets for aggression and both involve baiting and dissing on the way to besting your opponent. Stepping --  which has its origins in the Welly dance, a stomp originated by South African laborers wearing Wellington boots -- is more synchronized and disciplined. But they have plenty in common as DJ, hero of this opus alternately titled "Meisterstepper Von Atlanta," shows by fusing the new school and the old. It's a shame the free-wheeling flair of hip-hop wasn't used to vary the cinematic routine. 

By enlivening the quad with his street style, DJ gets it all -- an education, the girl and competitive laurels. And why not? But hanging a picture of the team alongside Martin Luther King in Truth University's Heritage Hall is going a bit far. Though there's nothing wrong with ambition, a lack of perspective can hobble any kind of dancer and any type of dance. 

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

© 2024 - ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Website designed by Dot Pitch Studios, LLC