There is a lot of "stepping" going on in Stomp the Yard, a drama set in Atlanta's Truth University about finding oneself and understanding the meaning of brotherhood.
Participants can generate exhilaration from their body's rhythmic capabilities when it comes to movement and sound (which includes howling like a wolf). And, the star of Sylvain White's kinetically energetic feature is Columbus Short (Accepted), a choreographer and stage actor of "Stomp" under the very sure-footed Savion Glover.
Short has his moments in this episodic, protracted musical melodrama as DJ who uses his face, feet and hands in such a way that catches the aggressiveness of rap and breakdancing. It's a new age since "Lambada" and "Electric Bugaloo."
Aimed at urban audiences, this Stomp shows DJ in a rehabilitation of sorts at this upscale university, a result of an intense dance-like competition in an underground Los Angeles club.
The wistful, a little ungrateful reluctant guy leads a solitary life on campus, book-minded, and doing lawn care work as part of a work-study program set by his serious-minded uncle (Harry J. Lennix). DJ's got a nice fall-back of his aunt and uncle's plush home if he needs a break from campus life.
The comely April (Meagan Good of Roll Bounce) starts to make him feel less like the guy from the wrong side of the tracks, cutting in line and interfering with a "step" line to get her attention. She has the cocky Grant (Darrin Henson) as her boyfriend who doesn't know what her favorite color is. Grant's the lead stepper for the frat team that's been the defending champion for years.
The screenplay by Robert Adetuyi has DJ hooking up with the Theta Nu Theta (TNT) fraternity, led by Sylvester (Brian White). It's all about having Grant being taken down a notch by this "bootlicker" and win the love of a girl whom he seems to notice the little things about.
When Stomp the Yard gets it on, as in bringing it on, even before the inevitable final step off, there is a passion for athleticism and moves with sudden cuts and shifting camera positions to make the choreography shine. There's still macho posturing throughout that the target audience connects with, not just in the competitions.
Short has plausible moments with Lennix and Good that tap into his frustrations and vulnerability. You feel DJ's defenses and raw talents rising up against the hostility, though White should have let his filmmaking ability in videos and commercials keep the soppy storyline with its jealousy, class, and fraternity rivalries from bogging down.
The comeuppances make sense as the stepping eventually tries to cover up the cliches, chauvanism, and trash-talking. It leads to the audience vocalizing the cool phraseologies and struck by the creative choreography. But, in referencing a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about intelligence and character, Stomp the Yard doesn't earn its place on a wall next to life's true education, let alone more affecting urban-slanted melodramas like Drumline.