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Case Number 11362

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Stomp The Yard (Blu-Ray)

Sony // 2007 // 114 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 10th, 2007

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All Rise...

Whenever Judge Dennis Prince attempted to stomp the yard, he wound up with dawg poop in the treads of his K-Swiss.

Editor's Note

Our review of Stomp The Yard, published May 15th, 2007, is also available.

The Charge

Beyond the pride. Beyond the rivalry. Beyond the tradition.

Opening Statement

There's usually much to be celebrated about these forays into the urban culture; revelations of the incredible talents of the young people that might otherwise go unnoticed by the population at large. But just as You Got Served and Drumline raised awareness and eyebrows of those who were unaware of the skills inherent of each, sadly, a film like Stomp the Yard lowers the bar by revealing its characters, talented as they may be, as one-trick wonders. Comparing this film's half-hearted narrative and characterizations to its more esteemed predecessors, its obvious the filmmakers and backers had little interest in fully representing the drive and determination of the "steppers," parading them as two-dimensional stomp-thugs who couldn't achieve much beyond the step line. As difficult as that is to write, it's even more difficult to believe.

These folks got under-served.

Facts of the Case

DJ (Columbus Short, Accepted) has just arrived at Truth University in Atlanta, hoping to escape the troubles of LA. A longtime member of an underground stepping squad, DJ's brother was murdered by a rival stepping troupe and DJ is on a work-for-education assignment to avoid incarceration for his participation in the deadly brawl. Quickly, DJ learns that Truth U. is all about stepping and "yard stomping" where rival fraternities descend upon the campus common area to face off with acrobatic and aggressive step routines. But when DJ makes moves on the pretty April (Meagan Good, Waist Deep), he does so unaware that she's property of the Mu Gamma Xi's Stepmaster, Grant (Darrin Henson, Longshot), who unleashes a whole lotta grief on the big city transplant. DJ retreats but is picked up by the Theta Nu Thetas squad to compete against the Mu Gams, the campus' reigning champs of stompin'.

Get the idea?

The Evidence

Although the storyline is as trite as it is well tread, there's always a certain buzz of excitement when this "underdog finds purpose and a second chance" treatment is set against a backdrop of the latest urban craze. Unfortunately, there's still need for a solid story and sensible characters to make the formula work and Stomp the Yard comes off more as a hip-hop tantrum than a heartfelt journey. Columbus Short, as DJ, is given little more to do than pout under his hoodie and skullie, his eyes perpetually darting back and forth in distrust without much opportunity to show his intellectual side. Meagan Good is pretty, no doubt, but she's given the self-deprecating task of existing as a "trophy girl" that can only grow as far as the imposed leash will allow. And if it weren't for the fact that this film is set on the campus of the fictitious Truth University, you wouldn't think there's much education going on, save for the steppers and their groupies attempts to "skool" each other.

This is the biggest problem with Stomp the Yard: it portrays its characters as do nothing slackers who can only find identity in their urban gear and their clamoring for inclusion in one of the various off-campus frat houses. Their only spoken goals are those that involve the step competition and perhaps hooking up with a hottie. Beyond this, they're driven to direct confrontations with one another, in the public eye, to extract some respect. This is odd since respect, as it had once been told, is to be earned not demanded. Therefore,

As for the performances, there's not much to quibble about, given these folks are incredibly talented in this unique blend of break dancing-meets-military formation. Their skills are undeniable and quite amazing. Unfortunately, director Sylvian White brings too much of his music video sensibility to this rather long movie and quickly demonstrates he hadn't given much thought to anything beyond the dance numbers. He utilizes the cliché un-mounted camera to weave and wind his way into the middle of the dance, but we never quite know what POV this is to represent (except maybe Dr. Jay who is eager to hook up viewers with the same urban fashion that's so prominently displayed). Visually, it's an incongruous affair that looks fine on a shot by shot basis but doesn't know how to find a suitable thread to confidently tie it all together. Ultimately, it seems an overlong commercial that pretends to be a feature film, never giving due respect to its performers, its performances, and, most of all, its audience.

This Blu-ray disc from Sony, however, excels in its endeavors, the 1080p / VC-1 encoded transfer looking more than respectable. The detail is sharp and the contrast significantly tweaked to provide a very dimensional image. The black levels are incredibly smooth and deep yet never at the expense of shadow detail. Colors burst off the screen in eye-pleasing fashion (and White is to be commended; he does know how to vividly paint a frame). The audio absolutely thumps, the urban heartbeat pounding from start to finish. This disc features both a PCM 5.1 Uncompressed and a Dolby TrueHD track and both are definite improvements over the usual Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround option. The difference between the two is negligible to the ear although audiophiles are quite excited to know the TrueHD track was encoded at 20bit. Amid the almost perpetual urban score, the dialog is clear and intelligible. Surrounds come into play but mainly for use of expanding the musical soundstage, as opposed to providing discrete effects. The LFE channel, however, will need time to cool after viewing.

Extras are quite paltry, likely pacing the film's lackluster box office showing. First up is an unexpectedly bland audio commentary where White and his entourage go limp as they lifelessly discuss the picture. Beyond this, the 20-minute featurette, Battles, Rivals, Brothers, skims over the production and doesn't do much to offer any noteworthy insight to the film. A short gag reel follows, as well as a handful of extended dance sequences presented prior to being frantically edited (and the comparative result is interesting).

Closing Statement

Stomp the Yard appeared to have so much potential, even if it had merely followed the template set by the aforementioned features in a more faithful and full manner. Instead, it lacks confidence exploring its characters and story in a more meaningful way, which would have given the dance sequences even more power and impact. Too bad. This one needed to "rep" and it didn't.

The Verdict

This court finds Stomp the Yard guilty of mindless loitering, disturbing the peace, and under-serving its target audience.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 97
Audio: 99
Extras: 71
Acting: 75
Story: 45
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• DTS HD 5.1 Surround (French)
• PCM 5.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• Chinese
• French
• Korean
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Thai
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Drama
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• Feature commentary
• Featurette: Battles, Rivals, Brothers
• Extended and deleted scenes
• Gag reel
• Blu-ray previews

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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