Another year, another steppin’ film. Movies about this particular modern street dance movement tend to be melodramatic coming-of-age pieces interspersed with lively and energetic dance numbers.
“Stomp the Yard” is no different – armed with never still handicams to give it that fly on the wall documenting real life feel, the movie is obviously aiming to be something more meaningful and serious than its tedious storyline would have you believe.
Unfortunately it’s not particularly successful at any of its aims. As a dramatic movie it’s weighted down but its bland script – milking every college drama cliche imaginable including a scolding evil dean, the threat of expulsion, rival fraternities, and so forth. Throw in a dance competition, older mentor relatives who stand up for their surrogate son at just the right time, and a girl already taken by the college’s big man on campus who falls for our soft spoken hero.
The mediocrity is almost inherent to the genre, but other films at times have managed to overcome it. The true breakout film of the group was “Rize” which ditched the crappy narrative in favour of examining the purity of dancing. 2003’s “You Got Served” managed to barely work thanks to some truly great dance scenes that were well filmed and choreographed. Last year’s “Step Up” was brimming over with the barely restrained sex appeal of the brooding Channing Tatum.
Not so much here though. The women of the piece, Megan Good as the girlfriend and Valerie Pettiford as the aunt, deliver decent turns – but all the guys are either blank shells like our hero or stereotypes which even solid actors like Harry Lennix seem almost embarassed to be playing. Allan Louis as the school provost has several painfully bad monologues that almost pushes this into camp territory. Well, that and the homoerotic shirtless in the sun sequence don’t help the film’s credibility.
This puts the burden on the dance sequences, but the quick cut editing and always moving camera seem to work against it. There may be some great scenes going on here but frankly we can’t get a gist of them – there’s no sense of scale or effect. In an effort to be as fluid as the performers, the filmmakers have forgotten lessons in simply physics and spatial relations. Instead of being captivated by the moves we’re concentrating on holding onto the contents of our stomachs.
All the unneeded dramatic convolutions are dispensed with for the big dance competition finale which has its strong moments – notably a slow motion leaping scene – and some wildly colourful visuals. Yet it’s certainly not enough to overcome the tedium of what has come before. Despite its self-perceived edge, this is pure cookie cutter material.