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Film review

Film moves in positive direction, step by step

Stomp the Yard opens a window on another facet of African-American culture.

By STEVE PERSALL
Published January 11, 2007


Columbus Short, right, stars in Stomp the Yard. The film takes Short's character, DJ, away from a potentially troubled life and introduces him to a new scene, one that includes college and a community of dancers.
photo
[Screen Gems]
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Stomp the Yard begins where too many hip-hop movies languish, among inner city gangbangers for whom pride is a reason to kill and thug life is cool.

Then director Sylvain White maps a unique detour for its hero, DJ Columbus Short. He turns DJ's involvement with a fatal shooting into a first step toward advancement. Probation sends DJ to live with relatives in Atlanta and enroll in college, where street wisdom alone won't cut it.

DJ becomes enamored, first with lovely April (Meagan Good) then with the fraternity and sorority tradition of step dancing: choreographed mashups of pep rally precision and smackdown attitude. This is a side of black culture rarely seen on screen: well-educated African-Americans channeling black pride into a fraternal bond lasting lifetimes.

Getting April's attention means blending in with privileged students and adapting to a more disciplined yet dazzling dance style. There is no "I" in team, but there's a lot of "Ohhh" in the dance sequences, exuberantly filmed by White and cinematographer Scott Kevan.

Before the fadeout, DJ will get the grades, the girl and the respect he was chasing in the wrong direction before. And he'll look good doing it, adapting krump moves from the 'hood to regimented fraternity step dancing. Imagine An Officer and a Gentleman with a kicking bass beat and you get the gist of DJ's journey.

Short (Save the Last Dance 2) smoothly handles the script's dramatic turns, making DJ easily empathetic. April is a worthy object of affection for DJ and a romantic rival (Darrin Henson) who is scheming to eliminate DJ and lead his fraternity to a seventh consecutive step dancing championship.

Not since Spike Lee's School Daze in 1988 has a film so energetically portrayed collegiate potential for young African-Americans. Stomp the Yard has its share of flaws - frantic editing, arch dialogue and at least one too many obstacles for DJ - but a sense of goodness covers up the bad. The movie manages to be a role model without being preachy.

Stomp the Yard is the latest release from Rainforest Films, an Atlanta production company led by St. Petersburg High School graduate Will Packer and his Florida A&M classmate Rob Hardy. (For an interview with Packer, see Friday's Floridian.) They started out giving audiences the sexy thrillers Trois and Pandora's Box. That led to a Sony/Screen Gems distribution deal.

They're using that break to offer uplifting stories of faith (2005's The Gospel) and now fraternity, never at the expense of cultural pride. Quietly and steadily, Packer and Hardy are urging African-Americans and filmmakers catering to them to do the right thing.

Steve Persall can be reached at (727) 893-8365 or persall@sptimes.com

 

REVIEW

Stomp the Yard

Grade: B

Director: Sylvain White

Cast: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Henson, Harry J. Lennix, Chris Brown, Brian White, Valarie Pettiford, Justin Hires

Screenplay: Robert Adetuyi

Rating: PG-13; profanity, brief violence and sexual situations

Running time: 110 min.

[Last modified January 10, 2007, 09:58:30]


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