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Stomp the Yard Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 August 2007

Image Do you feel the urge to waste 114 minutes of your life? If you answered yes, then “Stomp the Yard” is the film for you. Falling just shy of IMDb’s Bottom 100 (beat out by stiff competition like “Teenwolf Too” and “Thunderpants”), “Stomp the Yard” is as corny and painful as they come. Fulfilling just about every cultural stereotype and screenwriting cliché, the film plays like a tired music video sandwiched between bouts of exhausting melodrama. “Stomp the Yard” explores the world of college step dancing, a highly aggressive and choreographed dance form rooted deep in the history of African-American fraternities/sororities. The film ultimately decides to take itself way too seriously, rousing intermittent fits of awkward laughter which provides the film’s only sense of relief and entertainment.

Enter the world of Los Angeles underground dance battles. A hybrid of styles come together, including Krump, breakdancing and hip hop, where teams of dancers square off for cold, hard cash. DJ (Columbus Short), his brother Duron (Chris Brown) and their crew wipe the floor with the competition by showcasing some amazing physical and acrobatic abilities. Unfortunately, this lone highlight is overshadowed by director Sylvain White’s decision to turn the entire 11-minute introduction into an over-stylized rap video, complete with ridiculously high camera shutter speeds and cracked-out editing. The crews go at it with furious energy, but how they determine a winner for each battle is beyond me. After two viewings (one with commentary), I can only offer an educated guess that it seems the winner is he who is able to “diss” the other the most. Sure. Moving on.

Walking home, DJ and his brother get in a brawl with a crew of sore losers from the club. In the film’s first plot turn, Duron is shot during the melee, left to die in DJ’s arms. DJ is arrested for his involvement, and in order to avoid juvenile detention, moves to Atlanta to live with his Uncle Nate (Harry Lennix) and Aunt Jackie (Valarie Pettiford). Uncle Nate works the grounds at Truth University (an African-American institution) where he pulls a few strings to get DJ enrolled and a second chance on life. It isn’t long before DJ manages to step on the toes of the school’s dominant fraternity, and winners of the last seven National Step Championships, Mu Gamma Xi. To make matters worse, he falls for the beautiful April (Meagan Good), girlfriend to Mu Gamma Xi prodigy, Grant (Darrin Henson). DJ eventually defeats Grant in a battle at a local club (apparently he served up more dissing than he received), exhibiting his raw street-style dance moves while earning April’s affection in the process. But she’s not the only one watching. Rival fraternity, Theta Nu Theta, tired of playing second fiddle to Mu Gamma Xi the last seven years, sees an opportunity in DJ’s ghetto stylings. But DJ wants nothing to do with the fraternities and their stepping nonsense. He’s from the streets, a headstrong individual. But in an inexplicable twist, DJ visits what I can only assume is the Theta Nu house, gazing over a wall of photographs of historical black figures like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Are we to assume that they were all a part of Theta Nu Theta or maybe just the African-American Greek system in general? Is step dancing somehow comparable to the civil rights movement and the advancement of African-American culture? Whatever it means, this sparks inspiration in DJ and the allure of brotherhood and conformity prove too much for him. He joins the Theta Nu’s, and together they incorporate DJ’s raw street moves into their more traditional routines, in hope of making a run for the National Step Championship.

From here, “Stomp the Yard” plummets into clichés and predictability. Following the basic prototype of most underdog sports movies, DJ learns lessons about teamwork and sacrifice while April helps him exercise demons from his brother’s death. In a scene straight out of “Good Will Hunting,” DJ breaks down in tears as April chants, “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.” While the movie showcases some jaw-dropping dance sequences, it’s nearly impossible to take seriously, and is free of any legitimate entertainment quality. For me, “Stomp the Yard” finishes just a hair ahead of painful dental surgery.

While the film may not be very captivating, it does sport a visually pristine transfer. Utilizing the AVC/MPEG-4 compression codec, “Stomp the Yard” comes through extremely crisp and sharp with only a few instances of softness, more than likely a part of the source rather than the transfer. Even though I’m not a fan of the director’s music video style, it does provide for a vast palette of eye-popping colors, free from fuzziness or over-saturation. Skin tones appear accurate with plenty of fine detail in the close-ups. Contrast appears consistent throughout with good shadow delineation in the blacks with rare instances of low-level video noise. Macroblocking and compression artifacts are seemingly nonexistent.

The sound is equal to if not better than the visuals. “Stomp the Yard” is Sony’s first release containing both a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track, providing the opportunity to do a side-by-side analysis. I personally couldn’t hear any distinct differences as they both sounded fantastic. The sound design sports plenty of over-the-top sound effects that whip around the surround channels with loads of booming bass from the pounding hip-hop soundtrack that runs underneath. Dialogue-heavy scenes come through clean, clear and balanced throughout.

“Stomp the Yard” may not be loaded with special features, but at least it carries over everything from the standard DVD. This isn’t always the case with Blu-ray releases, causing serious frustration for fans looking for one definitive copy of their favorite film. First up, is a 17-minute featurette entitled, “Battles. Rivals. Brothers. The Story of Stomp the Yard.” Featured in 1080i (the only special feature in HD), the filmmakers discuss everything from the cinematography techniques to the intense dance choreography. It’s impossible to ignore that the entire cast and crew seems to have deluded themselves into thinking they were making a serious drama. In the end, they feel like the only ones who are not in on the big joke.

The director is joined by cinematographer Scott Kevan and editor David Checeland for a mostly technical, scene-by-scene commentary track. Rounding out the not-so-special features are some deleted scenes and a two-minute gag reel, all featured in pillar-boxed 480p. Also included are eight Sony trailers in full 1080p, but for whatever reason, a trailer for the film itself isn’t included.

While I can’t recommend this release based on its story, the film does boast multiple scenes with impressive dance choreography. While this doesn’t quite manage to carry the film, it may be of interest to fans of the genre. In addition, the top-tier transfer, along with the uncompressed PCM and TrueHD tracks, will give the home theater junkies something to play with. Otherwise, this is a release I can only recommend to the hardcore fans.

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