Review: 'Stomp the Yard' 

"Stomp the Yard," a frat-war story with a sense of percussion, aims to turn the world on to "stepping" — the dance form, traditional in African-American fraternities, characterized by dynamic choreography and some formidable stomping and clapping. That’s a vibrant, photogenic basis for a dance flick, surely, but, by flooding the screen with dazzle at the expense of purpose, the movie doesn’t allow it to wow its audience where it counts. And the trite story that accompanies the dancing even more irreparably sinks things.

Directed by Sylvain White, the stomp romp centers on a former L.A. street dancer named DJ (Columbus Short), who, smudged with a criminal record, sees new horizons when he arrives at a prestigious black college in Atlanta. When DJ displays his hip-hop moves, two fraternities court him. DJ joins one and is pitted against the other’s star dancer, a creep named Grant (Darrin Henson). Outside the dance arena, too, DJ competes with Grant, having fallen for Grant’s girlfriend, April (Meagan Good).

Films of this sort aren’t exactly Ibsen, but with a fair dose of freshness and credibility, they can sustain your involvement longer than a music video, the area where White’s expertise lies. That doesn’t happen here. The film touches on worthy themes — brotherhood, personal growth, black achievement — but screenwriter Robert Adetuyi (working from a previous script by Gregory Anderson) buries them in cliches. Storywise, the movie is cinematic dishwater.

The cast works no miracles, though Short both dances impressively and brings subsurface intensity to a stock role. Good seems to have been cast foremost as a presence for the camera to leer at. The usually excellent Harry J. Lennix has nothing interesting to do as DJ’s tough-loving uncle.

So uninspiring is all of this that you’d be grateful for the excess of dance sequences, were they not too jammed with flash, fast-cutting, slo-mo, in-your-face attitude, and other elements of style to be able to supply what the film direly needs: an affecting means of conveying personal struggles, ascending morale, and, ultimately, transformation. There’s dynamism to spare in this movie, but it’s energy misspent.

Stomp the Yard *½

Starring Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Darrin Henson, Harry J. Lennix

Written by Robert Adetuyi, Gregory Anderson

Directed by Sylvain White

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour, 55 minutes

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