AKA: Stomp the Yard 2; Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming
While in the case of Footloose or Save the Last Dance, the compelling screenplays proved to be a pleasant surprise, the truth is that unlike musicals which cull their performances directly from the situations depicted onscreen, nobody really watches a dance movie for the plot.
With this in mind, it's fairly easy to just jump right into a franchise sequel without worrying about whether or not you've even seen the original as evidenced in recent toe-tappers, Step Up 3D which premiered on the big screen and Stomp the Yard: Homecoming that hit shelves last week as a straight-to-disc second installment to the original smash.
And despite the fact that it was much easier for the former work to Step Up with a mega budget and explosive special effects, Stomp the Yard admirably stays true to itself by presenting us another underdog drama that centers on the art of “stepping.”
A precision based collegiate African-American tradition comprised of dance steps, chanting and percussive techniques utilizing both the hands and feet, Stomp makes stepping come alive as a metaphor for brotherhood and teamwork, arguing that people are always at their most powerful when surrounded by friends on the same page (or step).
In the sequel, we return to the fictitious Atlanta, Georgia set Truth University where the Theta Nu fraternity brothers are determined to dethrone their chief rivals, Mu Gamma Xi at Sprite's National Step Competition during homecoming weekend to ensure that each member will receive a full college scholarship.
And sure enough, the money can't come soon enough for the sequel's brand new lead character Chance Harris (Collins Pennie) who, having fled his home previously following the death of his mother, returns to Georgia to work in his dad's struggling diner while he goes to school.
No longer just a pledge and ready to not only join the Thetas for step practice but also contribute his own choreography as well, as the film opens Chance gets hustled in a fixed underground dance competition before he's threatened with bodily harm if he doesn't pay back the money he owes to street thugs.
Trying to keep his failed attempt to earn enough cash for tuition a secret from his Theta Nu brothers in addition to his father and girlfriend, the increasingly stressed Chance finds himself spread far too thin as the competition draws nearer.
While there's enough plot in the movie to have easily given Homecoming a much longer and more involved running time that would feel natural given the amount of information with which we're presented, this succinct feature admittedly does shortchange the audience on dramatic payoff in favor of just hitting certain predictable and perfunctory plot points while racing through the storyline for the inevitable dance-off.
Likewise, because Chance is such a worthwhile and relatable character, it does annoy us that major problems are resolved either offscreen or with a single line or a look. But despite its shortcomings and my own personal wish that we would've had a fraction less drama and a few more performances, the flaws are ultimately benign.
In the end, the impressive if slightly dully lit Stomp the Yard is salvaged by the fact it's just a really solidly entertaining straight-to-disc feature which gives fans more of what they enjoyed the first time around, making the films harmonize nicely even though there's no prerequisite that you need to see one first to get in step with the other.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.