The Good: One or two one-liners
The Bad: Obvious, Predictable, Not terribly funny, clever or original, Lousy characters, Reinforces homophobia.
The Basics: Fired Up! disappoints even viewers who go into it with low expectations for a sex-farce because it does not have anything new or more to it than that.
[Note: This review was originally written based upon a preview screening of “Fired Up!” in advance of the movie. Since then, my wife has fallen in love with the works of writer-director Will Gluck – who has since done “Easy A” and “Friends With Benefits.” So, when she wasn’t feeling well, I got out “Fired Up!” again and it turned out to be no better a second time or in an unrated form. That said, enjoy the analysis!]
The most disappointing thing about going into movies that one has low expectations about is when those low expectations go unmet. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by a little sex-farce called Sex Drive that actually succeeded in charming me. So when I saw some of the previews for Fired Up! I allowed myself as moment or two of hope. Then, I grounded myself, called the entire plot and character arcs prior to the screening I went to tonight and figured that the film would be average-at-best. What ultimately makes Fired Up! below average is its stifling averageness. There is nothing original, clever or even entirely surprising or interesting in this film.
It is worth noting, as well, that Fired Up! is solidifying for me a new pet peeve. Those who read my many movie reviews know that I absolutely loathe films where the preview shows (essentially) the entire movie. After all, my argument goes, what is the point of shelling out money to see a movie that one has already seen in a condensed form, especially where the best moments are in the preview? My new pet peeve in this regard is when montages in the movie are cut into the preview. It is one thing to take and condense moments of time in a movie to keep the pace going and move it along, but to include those montages in the trailer, like the whole movie might be a series of clips is just tacky. I make this in reference to Fired Up! because one of the reasons I was even willing to subject myself to this obvious schlock comedy was that John Michael Higgins was in it. In the previews, there were quick clips of him doing physical comedy in the form of cheer positions. These clips, sadly, are exactly as they appear in the movie, cut as montages from a sort of "welcome to cheer camp" sequence and they do not fit the movie. In fact, if possible, they were funnier in the trailer. Note to trailermakers: Stop putting montages in your montage trailers!
Nick and Shawn are two popular football players who are looking at the prospect of two weeks at football camp and not relishing the thought of two weeks without girls. Given that between the two of them, they have had sex with all but one of the girls in their high school class, they have the libido to keep having sex and are not eager to go two weeks without girls. After outrunning the fathers of two girls they are trying to make moves on, they consider that a change of venue might be worth it and they overhear members of the cheer squad talking about Cheerleading camp and the three week program they are looking forward to. Nick and Shawn hit on the idea of joining the squad, having sex with new girls and ditching out after week two to make it back for a week with their drunk, idiotic football buddies.
After enlisting Shawn's sister, the boys convince the dim cheerleaders to accept them and convince head cheerleader Carly to accept them onto the squad. Arriving at cheer camp, Shawn begins to feel something for Carly, despite joining Nick in seducing as many girls as he can. Nick finds himself drawn to the over-thirty, married camp counselor, Diora. As the guys get more into cheering than they ever expected, they attempt to woo their respective girl and woman while training to win the competition that the Tigers have lost every year.
Fired Up! is a stupid comedy and if you called the film from what was shown in the trailer, odds are you guessed exactly right. It is the type of movie where there are no surprises: Shawn is interested in Carly, despite her romancing a lecherous college freshman who calls himself Dr. Rick. There is a cheer move that is prohibited, the Fountain Of Troy, so you can pretty much figure that someone is going to try doing that. And Diora being married is not a valid reason - it appears - for Nick to not pursue her.
The most disappointing thing about Fired Up! is that there is no charm or surprise, nothing that makes this movie even remotely unique. In other words, it is all hard-on and no heart. As a result, the football players outside Nick and Shawn are all idiots, Nick and Shawn are the idealized high school players and the girls are pretty much willing to go along with anything or even encourage the guys' stupidity, because it is that sort of movie. We expect that going in, but in Fired Up! there is nothing to contradict that or even make it remotely interesting.
In fact, the only real laughs I got out of Fired Up! were the political references and the wordplay outside anything to do with the main plot. So, for example, when signing in, Nick notes that they are from Gerald Ford High School with a comment like "mediocre president, great public school." The rest of the time, the humor is so easy to call that it is disturbing and the catch phrases, most notably one girl whose repeated line is "I'm just saying . . ." wears out quickly.
As it seems to be a requirement in PG-13 sex-farce movies of our modern times, there are references to homosexuals and lesbians and Fired Up! makes them without any particular sensitivity, subtlety or even humor. Most disturbing is during the closing credits where the youngest member of the cast presents alternate takes on a line where she was derogatory toward another character's lesbianism and the lines, even edited, become pretty hateful. In other words, this film reinforces the heteronormative and uses "gay" as a pejorative at times.
That said, Fired Up! is pretty harmless because it is essentially an excuse for PG-13 T&A, though I understand that it had to be pared down to get the PG-13, so expect an "unrated" DVD when it comes out in that format. There is a make-out montage, an overbearing soundtrack and good actors doing terrible things. Phillip Baker Hall plays a coach whose most frequently used word (no kidding, because the guys place a bet on the number of times he will use it in their conversation) is "shit." One assumes Hall did something on one of Will Gluck's other sets that Gluck was able to extort for his participation in this. The thing is, when the teen sex-farce was new, there was the potential to be original and now the key is to do something different or charming. Fired Up! does neither.
It does, however, make poor use of a number of talents. Phillip Baker Hall is not used to anything close to his potential as the foul-mouthed coach. John Michael Higgins, whose work I have enjoyed since before I saw him in Best In Show is underused and when he is utilized he gives us no shtick outside what we've seen from him before. None of the female leads stand out as anything other than Hollywood beautiful stickfigures (I swear, I remember seeing more diversity in body shape in EVERY cheerleading team I have seen in real life than in this movie) and in the group shots, the acting is terrible, if one chooses to look at anyone but the leads on screen.
The movie comes down to the acting talents of Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen. Olsen, who played Sully in director Will Gluck's The Loop is essentially playing the same character in Fired Up! Both were the wisecrackers with a witty sense of intelligence to them and Gluck seems to be unable to utilize Olsen in any other way. D'Agosto plays Shawn with the most obvious character arc and while he cannot be held to account for the writing, he performs the part with no particular flair or charisma, making it in no way enjoyable to watch.
Fired Up! is exactly what it seems to want to mock, a cheerleading sex-farce that is exactly as the previews made it seem. And viewers deserve more. "I'm just saying . . ."
For other coming-of-age comedies, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Bridget Jones’s Diary
She’s Out Of My League
For other film reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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