A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Stomp the Yard

May 13, 2011

Stomp the Yard

I’d like to stress, just for the record, that Amanda did NOT request that I buy this movie. I bought it way back at the start of the movie a day project when we were trying to get more movies that would appeal to Amanda into our collection to counterbalance all the movies I had purchased over the years without her consent. She asked me to pick up Bring it On and Drumline and in my mind this movie just kind of fit that genre so I suggested we get it as well. She wasn’t immediately sold on the idea and told me I didn’t necessarily need to pick it up. I bought it anyhow of course.

The truth is that I feel like I’ve seen this movie before (even though I haven’t) but that’s okay because some stories are worth watching again. And this version of the story did offer a couple of surprises here and there.

The familiar story is that of the talented outsider who learns how to become a member of the team and brings them to a higher level as a group. Bring it On, Drumline, Stick It and this are all cut from the same cloth. Our talented outsider today is DJ, a gifted krumper and street dancer. When he (against the advice of his wise-beyond-his-years brother) encourages his dance crew to beat and humiliate a rival LA dance crew a fight results. It costs DJ’s brother his life and subjects DJ to a quick montage of shame.

That’s just the set-up though. The real action of the movie starts when DJ’s kind aunt and uncle bring him to their alma mater Truth U. His uncle, the captain of the Hammer from the Matrix sequels, gets him a job as a groundskeeper at the college so he can work his way through school. Dispite his street roots DJ very quickly proves himself to be a conscientious hard worker and student. Of course he still longs for his dancing days. Then he discovers the local fraternities and their step-dancing rivalry.

Here we get another whole slew of cliches. There’s the studious fraternity where nobody is aloud to take the easy way out and hard work is respected. There’s the privileged frat full of spoiled guys who simply expect to win and aren’t above video-taping their rivals to steal their material. Of course the Theta Nus (the good guys) haven’t won the step dancing championships in ages and are considered tired and washed up. The Mu Gammas on the other hand strut around because they’re reigning champs with six wins under their belts. Perhaps DJ can infuse the Thetas with fresh ideas using his street background and thus bring them victory?

Things are complicated somewhat by the fact that DJ finds himself falling for a girl named April who is going out with the second in command of the Gammas. Oh, and her father is a Gamma and is a powerful bigwig in the school faculty.

Considering just how familiar this whole plot is, and how full of tired cliches, it is pleasantly surprising how much I enjoyed the movie. For one thing the dancing is great. It’s sometimes hard to follow because of the hyperactive camera work and flashy editing, but there are some astonishing dancers here and some moves I had never seen before. (Most notably there’s an awesome movie in the opening dance-off where one guy repeatedly throws himself onto one shoulder blade and rolls around to leap back to his feet. It’s so cool.)

The other thing that’s surprising about this movie, although it appears somewhat sudden and doesn’t have quite enough establishing motivation behind it, is DJ’s dedication to bettering himself, learning and becoming a part of something bigger than himself in the fraternity. At the start of the movie DJ is sullen and doesn’t want much to do with this whole college thing. When things begin to fall apart near the end of the movie, though, DJ is most concerned because his bright new future, which he has been trying so hard to reach towards, is being taken away from him. I like that arc, I just wish that there was more in the movie to explain this transformation – it just appears to happen.

My other complaint about the movie would be that aside from DJ and April nobody else in the movie is particularly well defined. There’s DJ’s room mate (in his absolutely VAST freshman double which seems to have room for about twenty people) and his sponsor in the frat, and his rival and his aunt and uncle and April’s father… all these characters who don’t really have any character of their own and exist only to serve DJ’s story. I would have liked to have gotten a feel for who some of these people were, but I never did.

The whole movie is like that I guess. It’s DJ’s story and everybody else is along for the ride. Things happen to him and he makes decisions because it moves the plot forward, not because it makes sense for his character. (Why does he obsess over April in the first place? He shows himself to be sensitive to her feelings and her desires later on, but it all starts out with him just seeing her out of the corner of his eye and in slow motion.) The dancing is really cool though.

May 13, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: