Fired Up!

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“Fired Up!” (enthusiasm theirs) is a teen-centric horndog comedy that you would do well not to get attached to, as it will disappear quickly from theaters and never be heard from again. The meatheads who would find it appealing and are eager to see it today — Maxim readers, frat boys, etc. — will be baffled by its smarter jokes, while the people who might appreciate its odd sense of humor have no interest in seeing it.

I hasten to add that it’s still not a good movie. It’s formulaic and, at heart, utterly moronic. But it grew on me. The sheer quantity of its juvenility, and the energy with which it is delivered, is infectious, and the screenplay (credited to Freedom Jones, obviously a pseudonym) is flecked with quotable dialogue. As the film progressed, I could feel the grade on this review getting better, from D+ to C- and finally to C+. Who knows, if the film had been 10 minutes longer, it might have gotten a B-.

Anyway, 28-year-old Nicholas D’Agosto and 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen play high school students named Shawn and Nick. They are popular football players and inveterate philanderers with the campus ladyfolk. On the eve of their two-week summer football camp in El Paso, they catch wind of the cheerleading camp happening closer to home, where instead of bounties of fat guys there will be endless fields of lithe, limber teenage girls. They decide to feign sudden conversion to cheerleading in order to tag along, figuring they can fake the skills because “we’re athletes, we can do anything.”

Turns out they’re right. Shawn’s mercenary little sister, Poppy (Juliette Goglia), providentially a cheerleader herself, shows them the basic moves and terminology literally overnight, and they’re well on their way to infiltrating the cheerleading ranks! All they have to do is give their football coach an excuse for missing camp. Which they do. Well, one of them does. The other one doesn’t. The movie skips that part. Hey, two horny jocks are going to cheerleading camp — what do you want, a plausible story to get them there?

Their plan is to only score with chicks they don’t know, and avoid the girls on their own squad. Shawn immediately violates this rule by falling for Carly (Sarah Roemer), the captain of their team and the only one smart enough to be skeptical of their obviously shady intentions. Carly, however, has a douchebag college boyfriend, Rick (David Walton), who I don’t need to tell you is a cheater and doesn’t deserve her and it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out and she chooses Shawn instead.

So much is wrong with the film, mechanically speaking, that I think I’m annoyed by how often it made me laugh. The jokes about the mincing gay male cheerleaders at the camp get old fast, as do the ones about the lesbians. A subplot involving the squad’s arch-rivals goes nowhere and serves no purpose (though I do like the way the enemy team dresses in all-black and moves in unison, even when casually strolling through the quad). Shawn and Nick’s immediate, team-improving prowess for cheerleading is, on its face, absurd.

But under all this idiocy is a manic, anything-goes attitude that is well executed by D’Agosto and Olsen, who are passable as a smart-mouthed, fast-talking snark team. There’s also John Michael Higgins (always a comedic bright spot) as an intense cheerleading instructor, and occasional pop-cultural jabs like mocking someone for wearing Crocs when “you’re not an old lady gardening or a baby on the beach.” Dumb people don’t write lines like that.

The director is Will Gluck, who created and wrote for Fox’s short-lived comedy series “The Loop,” which co-starred Olsen and was very, very funny. In fact, I suspect that whoever actually wrote “Fired Up!” — maybe Gluck himself? — was involved in “The Loop,” because the style is uncannily similar, as is the nonstop barrage of raunchy sexual innuendo.

I get the feeling there’s a very intelligent sex comedy trapped in here somewhere, but it doesn’t do enough to make its presence known. The dozen or so laughs I got out of it, while solid indeed, aren’t enough to justify a 90-minute movie … but I’m not going to strain myself discouraging you from seeing it, either. It’s better than you’d think, worse than it could be, and has a line about putting makeup on a bear.

C+ (1 hr., 29 min.; PG-13, abundant profanity and vulgarity, sexual situations, partial nudity -- the only thing saving this from an R rating is that it manages to never use the F-word.)

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