Things I Learned Watching Stomp the Yard
An inspirational story of life, love, and yard-stomping
• If I were the guy who put together the trailer for The Hitcher, I wouldn't bill it as being from the producer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; I'd bill it as being from the guy who directed the Master P/Eddie Griffin vehicle Foolish and all those Missy Elliott videos. And that's why nobody is ever going to hire me to put together movie previews. Either way, The Hitcher looks better than Norbit.
• Dreamgirls got a whole lot of mileage out of the fact that it's basically impossible to hate a movie that opens with the sound of a cowbell. It's probably also impossible to completely hate a movie that opens with the sound of Bonecrusher screaming "Attention!" but Stomp the Yard tries pretty hard to make me hate it anyway. Bonecrusher, sadly, makes no further contributions to the movie.
• I probably would've known better if I'd actually watched the preview or looked closely at the movie posters or whatever, but I totally expected Stomp the Yard to be You Got Served with more stomping and with Ne-Yo playing Marques Houston to Chris Brown's Omarion. Ne-Yo's role is pretty decent, but it's totally a supporting comic-relief thing. Chris Brown actually gets shot and killed in the first five minutes, so he never gets any chance to do much other than bust out a couple of dance moves. The lead goes to some walking perma-scowl named (seriously) Columbus Short, who was a dancer in You Got Served, just like Kevin Federline. Short is really good when he's dancing/stomping and totally flat and boring otherwise. He does get one great scene at a club where he makes fun of the regional dances from a whole bunch of cities. If the entire movie was just him doing that, it would be about four times better than it is.
• Stomp the Yard is the #1 movie in the country this week, the first movie to break the hard-rolling winning streak of Night at the Museum, but it doesn't quite fit the fun and profitable recent tradition of movies like You Got Served and Drumline and Bring It On, movies where the competition that ostensibly drives the plot is really just an excuse to hang a flimsy story on a series of eye-popping spectacles. Whenever one of those spectacular performances came up, the movie itself would screech to a halt and let the performers do their thing. All those movies used dizzy camerawork and hyperactive editing, but all that stuff was in service of exhilaration. When Stomp the Yard uses the same chopped-up techniques, the results are claustrophobic and disorienting. Tonally, the movie is a lot closer to Friday Night Lights or maybe even 8 Mile, so in awe of the tradition of black-fraternity step-shows that it never quite takes pleasure in the ridiculous scenarios it works up, though that constant seriousness doesn't prevent it from stealing a couple of plot-points blatantly and directly from You Got Served. The film stock is all grainy and green-tinted, and the camera doesn't even stop spastically jerking around during the quiet scenes. It even has churning slow-motion guitars all over the soundtrack, just like Friday Night Lights.
• I couldn't tell quite what was going on in the opening scene since the damn camera would never sit still, but I'm pretty sure it was just the first scene from You Got Served except with shitty lighting and no Steve Harvey. In LA, apparently scary Latino guys with teardrop tattoos get into dance competitions in warehouses and then kill people when they lose. And they dance to screamy nu-metal, which is unfortunate.; you can't really dance to that stuff. Also, for some reason someone dressed like the bunny from Donnie Darko stands on the side of the stage the entire time.
• Every time I see this guy in anything, I think it's Candyman and then get all disappointed when I realize it isn't. In any case, it's nice that he took a break from spying on terrorists on 24 to provide the only actual acting in this movie.
• Ne-Yo is pretty funny! Also, Ne-Yo is totally bald.
• Meagan Good, another You Got Served veteran, looks incredible, but she also looks like she just smelled something terrible every time she's on camera.
• The movie is basically a feature-length commercial for Greek organizations on black campuses the same way Top Gun was a feature-length commercial for the Air Force. Other than a couple of shots where characters stare soulfully at a book for a second or two, there's nothing academic going on at all.
• Apparently competitive step-shows involve green contact lenses and dry ice and pyrotechnics. Also, Sway covers them for MTV News, so you know they're big-time.
• Movies about yard-stomping do not have to be two hours long.
Voice review: Scott Foundas on Stomp the Yard