Stomp the Yard
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film's second scene is violent, then sad: A fight between groups of boys (featuring hectic editing and aggressive camerawork) ends when the main character's brother is shot and killed (bloody wound is visible). Characters discuss sex (one young man shows his selection of condoms) and use sex-infused slang. Aggressive language includes "bitch," "s--t," "hell," "asshole," and derogatory terms; a couple of African-American characters use the "N" word to show hostility. R&B singer Ne-Yo is one of the film's stars.
What's the story?
STOMP THE YARD focuses on competing fraternity steppers at fictional Truth University. L.A.-based DJ (Columbus Short) channels his anger at "the system" though crunk dancing, and his innovative moves make him a crowd favorite. But when a fight with a rival team leads to his brother Duron's (Chris Brown) murder, DJ feels guilt and despair, which turns -- no surprise -- into more anger. Shipped off to Atlanta to live with his uncle and aunt, DJ finds new athletic, dance, and competition possibilities in stepping. At Truth, DJ is recruited by two fraternities who think his skills will help them win the national championship. He selects Theta Nu Theta because its leader -- the very earnest Sylvester (Brian White) -- extols the virtues of brotherhood more than winning the title (though of course, everyone focuses on winning).
Is it any good?
Heavy-handed and well-intentioned, Stomp the Yard proposes that step groups (and similar organizations) provide structure and inspiration for students in need of guidance and a sense of belonging. It's a decidedly masculine melodrama. Not only does DJ contend with paternal disapprovals (his uncle thinks stepping is a waste of time, and April's dad warns him that "My daughter is not some shorty for you to mess with!"), but he must also come to terms with his own competitive hostility and Duran's death. At the same time, he has to come up with a killer step routine for the group. Luckily, DJ is inspired by Truth's amazing array of sorority and fraternity alumni, who are enshrined in Heritage Hall -- the list includes Esther Rolle, Hines Ward, Michael Jordan, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King, among others. Yes, it's a strained conceit, but Sylvain White's movie does well to remind all of us of these powerful embodiments of resistance, motivation, and "truth."
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about black fraternities' role in preserving and teaching about African-American history. How does DJ's exposure to Heritage Hall show him the "value" of fraternities? What audience is the film trying to reach and what is it trying to tell them?