How entertaining moviegoers find a film often depends on their level of expectations. People are much less likely to enjoy a movie if they have high hopes for it than if they don’t really know anything about it. It’s harder to surpass the expectations that way. “Stomp the Yard,” which opened Friday, is most enjoyable when the viewer goes in with no expectations at all.
Fans of “You Got Served,” “Roll Bounce” or “Drumline” will find themselves in comfortable territory with “Stomp the Yard,” directed by Sylvain White and starring Columbus Short (“Accepted”) and Meagan Good (“You Got Served”). Short’s DJ, a kid from the streets of L.A., likes to battle on the dance floor with his brother (Chris Brown) and friends. But when things get too violent, he’s forced to move to his uncle and aunt’s place in Atlanta and attend Truth University. He falls for a girl and, more significantly, joins a fraternity step team to which he brings his own unique street style.
The story is pure Hollywood formula. It’s another case of some executive saying, “Hey, let’s make a movie about [cool new trend]!” and hiring some writers dirt cheap to stretch it into a feature-length film. College comedy stereotypes abound, including the stern administrator, the quirky roommate, the fraternity asshole and the girl-of-everyone’s-dreams, who happens to date the fraternity asshole.
That said, the music and the dancing is pretty great and there’s some fun to be found in the soap opera twists and sometimes laughably bad lines (“T.N.T. is one of the most powerful explosives in the world!”). Many critics say that even such qualities fail to outweigh the bad, but then, they probably didn’t go see “Stomp the Yard” to have a good time in the first place.
The cinematography has its hiccups, but it’s also nice for the most part. The stylized opening sequence, a dance battle royale similar to the one that opened “You Got Served,” loses its cool because of choppy editing. But later the camera is used wonderfully in capturing the Georgia scenery and tricky steppin’.
Short, who’s most recently appeared in the television show “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” is likable as the tortured DJ. Though it’s pretty easy to predict how the movie’s going to end up anyway, the melodramatic twists in DJ’s life will surely get reactions from the audience. MTV favorite Chris Brown makes his feature film debut in “Stomp the Yard,” but his role is surprisingly minimal.
“Stomp the Yard” definitely isn’t an Oscar contender, but it’s an amazingly good popcorn flick, especially for dance and hip-hop lovers. There’s nothing terribly original about it, except for the topic, but it still can be pretty damn entertaining. One word of warning before you Metro to Mazza: don’t trip over the little white kids trying to imitate the dancers after the credits roll.