Stomp the Yard (2007)

Opens like a dystopian fiction, complete with a Big Brother-esque eye/tagline that’s defaced from the second-person singular to the first-person plural (the sci-fi vibe is maintained for a good while). The dancing is filmed with that Private Ryan intensity that Ridley Scott perverted in Hannibal and Black Hawk Down. The emotional effect is more cumulative than immediate. Whenever the dancers stomp and the camera earthquake-shakes I can’t help but think more fondly of production house Screen Gems’ considerably less slick You Got Served, which has a more honest, homegrown feel, despite its silliness. (It’s the TV Star Trek where Stomp the Yard is J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek—I prefer my Klingon attacks on rickety, tipping sets, I guess, rather than flawless, technically-airbrushed otherworlds.) Funny that both films share “Beautifull” Meagan Good, very charming alongside star Columbus Short as the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who finds his calling at the all-African-American Truth University. With a completely straight face, the film connects his step-dancing quest to the work of civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Credit cast and crew with making us believe it, for the most part, even if the pro-education message-mongering does weigh things down needlessly. There’s a discussion to be had about race in these modern musicals I’m watching: the lily-white Center Stage, the have-it-all-ways-or-as-much-as-Disney-allows Step Up series, the ghetto-chic of You Got and Stomp—though at least You Got has some credible, innately complicated supporting characters like Esther Scott’s Grandma (much more than her “Mmm-hmm!” platitudes). Interesting that the ’80s musicals I’ve seen, like Breakin’ and its sequel, paint African-American life with a rainbow (or at least presents it as a very, very likely outcome—Reagan’s morning?). With You Got and Stomp, it’s “Guns, guns, guns.” And, perhaps more truthfully, when glory comes (MTV-sanctioned, of course), the films don’t negate or deny the tragedies that came before.

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