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Dan's Review: Unitards

Local Utah production suffers from a severe case of unitardation.
Unitards (Excel)

Rated PG for mild language.

Sam Featherstone, Jamison Featherstone, Zack Spurlock, Michael Buster, Karen Dodge.

Written and Directed by Scott Featherstone.

GRADE: D+

REVIEW:


There have been a whole bunch of movies filmed in Utah. Some of them are pretty good. Some are not. Most of the good ones are big blockbusters that feature Utah's great scenery and talented crews, but unfortunately, most of the bad ones involve local production companies and local actors, catered to a Utah Mormon audience. Some local productions have their moments (Saints and Soldiers, Brigham City, Single's Ward, Best Two Years), but many others are more miss than hit (Home Teachers, Church Ball, Mobsters and Mormons). While I'm a Utah homer who roots for these films to succeed, it pains me to recognize how much some of them truly suck...

...which brings me to the subject of Unitards, a film about a group of high school boys who form their own dance team (like a girl's drill team/pep squad). The movie was filmed in and around Salt Lake City's Skyline High School, and details how a newly-elected student body officer Lewis (Sam Featherstone) plans to follow the edict of Vice-principal Spooner (Michael Buster) to raise school spirit. Lewis enlists his two best friends Greg (Jamison Featherstone) and Jake (Zach Spurlock) to hatch a spirit-raising idea, and they eventually come up with an all-male dance troupe.

The trio holds auditions and recruits boys to their team, which is dubbed "Unitards," after the common dancer garb. As the team forms, the boys get resistance from the girl's adult dance advisor Mrs. Zarolla (Karen Dodge) who thinks the boys are mocking Skyline's award-winning La Nichee dance team. The Unitards are a great hit among students, so Mrs. Zarolla tries to frame Lewis and the boys in a plot to implicate them in the injury of East High School football players (take THAT, High School Musical!). The boys must prove their innocence to save the team.

Unitards is based on Sam Featherstone's real-life experience at Skyline where he helped form a similar boy's drill team as a student body officer during his senior year. Sam's dad (director, writer and producer Scott Featherstone) watched all those assemblies and hatched the idea for the movie, which stars a host of Skyline faithful in most roles (and a lot of Featherstones).

The Unitards narrative attempts to tap into the charm and structure of 2004's Napoleon Dynamite, while also drawing on elements of Footloose. It fails miserably on both accounts.

It would seem that some school assemblies belong in school auditoriums, and not on the movie screen. The flimsy so-called "conflict" of Unitards is about as controversial as lunchroom food fight. The script and acting lack as well, with a lot of jokes that seem intended only for Skyline Eagles or members of the Featherstone family. The dance routines also might have been funnier or more interesting if the boys had practiced a little more, or perhaps jazzed it up a little, but for the most part, the performances come across as a bunch of class clowns in drag.

Again, I wish it were different. I wish I could tell the story of a little Utah production that took the cinematic world by storm - but I can't.

Unitards seems like a skit in an LDS roadshow, but not much of a movie.


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