A surprise hit when it stomped through theatres last January, "Stomp the Yard" stars Columbus Short as DJ, a member of an underground dance team who - at the film's open - competes against a rival team in a dance sequence that's as ridiculously over-stylized as an MTV video. The moves are remarkable - do we really need such aggressive editing and shaky camera? After DJ's group wins, a fight breaks (apparently, the dance-off took place on another group's turf) out nearby and it ends in tragedy for one of DJ's friends.
The film cuts to DJ in Atlanta, where he's trying to turn his life around by enrolling in (I'm not kidding) Truth University (apparently Lies University was being saved for a sequel.) DJ reluctantly starts school in a work-study program and it's not long before he befriends a local girl (Megan Good), although that inevitably starts trouble again when her frat boyfriend, Grant (Darrin Henson) gets jealous. There's also the matter of two rival stepping dance troops who want him to join. The thing is though, he doesn't "step", he "battles."
So starts the inevitable rivalry between DJ and Grant to get the attention of April (Good). Will DJ join a stepping group? Will he succeed at college? Will April fall for him? All of these answers are obvious, but the movie takes a great deal of time trying to get to them. At 114 minutes, "Stomp" feels unnecessarily long, as all of these plot threads could have been wrapped up at a more streamlined 90 minutes. Additionally, the film takes itself so incredibly seriously that some moments meant to be dramatic seem a little silly.
There's elements of "Stomp the Yard" that work fairly well. The dance sequences, when not so overstylized that they seem like music videos in the middle of the movie, let the remarkable moves speak for themselves. Short ("Save the Last Dance 2") isn't bad, and has decent chemistry with Good. Otherwise, the film's main problem isn't so much the cliches it uses, but the fact that there's absolutely no need to take nearly two hours to tell a story this thin.
VIDEO: "Stomp the Yard" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is generally quite good, as the film appeared crisp and well-defined at all times. Some slight edge halos in a couple of scenes and a few minor instances of artifacting were the extent of the presentation's concerns. Some fine grain was also seen in some scenes, but this looked to be intentional. Colors looked bold and bright, with no smearing or other issues. Overall, a fine enough presentation of the material.
SOUND: While much of the film remains dialogue-driven, the dance/club sequences certainly use the music to good effect, as it's nicely spread out across the front speakers and blasts from the surrounds, creating an enveloping, punchy and high-energy presentation. Heavy, deep bass can be heard during quite a few sequences, but the dialogue-driven scenes also deliver fine quality with crisp, undistorted dialogue.
EXTRAS: Director's commentary, extended dance sequences, deleted scene, gag reel, "Battles, Rivals, Brothers" featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Stomp the Yard" offers some decent performances and intense dance sequences, but the thin plot is stretched to its limits at nearly two hours - a fast 90 minutes would have been at least more tolerable. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a nice set of extras. Those interested should try as a rental.
The Film C