At Quality 16
2 out of 5 stars
Cheerleading comedies have been reduced to a series of direct-to-video “Bring It On” sequels in recent years, but “Fired Up!” had the potential to smack the genre upside its head — the film has genuinely funny moments and its two leads have impeccable comic timing. Still, with its flood of teen comedy conventions and a stupendously awful supporting cast, it ends up amounting to little more than a forgettable high-school movie.
The premise of “Fired Up!” isn’t very hard to follow. Football jocks Nick (Eric Christian Olsen, “Eagle Eye”) and Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto, TV’s “Heroes”) like sex. They will do whatever it takes to have sex with lots of beautiful women. The two decide to forgo football camp one summer in order to attend cheer camp, since they would be the only men among hundreds of female cheerleaders. Naturally, the girls all happen to be athletic, promiscuous and smokin’ hot. At the camp, Nick and Shawn begin their conquest of these women until, rather unsurprisingly, their real emotions kick in. Shawn falls for Carly (Sarah Roemer, “Disturbia”), his team’s captain, and he must win her away from her jerk of a boyfriend with his charm and cheerleading prowess.
“Fired Up!” centers on the strong, entertaining relationship between Nick and Shawn. It’s a Hollywood convention to hire older actors to play high school students, so the amusing fact that the actors playing Nick and Shawn are 31 and 28, respectively, is not very distracting. The duo’s rapid-fire rapport will have viewers chuckling constantly. It also creates a natural chemistry that allows the audience to believe that the pair have been best friends for years. Nick, in particular, dominates the film with his quick wit and creative PG-13 profanity. His wide range of pop-culture references is impressive; he goes from joking about the suckage of Nickelback to inexplicably quoting “Hamlet 2.” As Nick, Olsen resembles Jim Carrey on Ritalin, with his subtle physical comedy and speedily-delivered dialogues.
But every supporting character in “Fired Up!” is an aggravating stereotype. The worst offenders include Gwyneth (AnnaLynne McCord, TV’s “90210”), the super-bitchy captain of a rival squad, and Brewster (Adhir Kalyan, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), the token gay cheerleader. The only exception is Rick (David Walton, TV’s “Quarterlife”), Carly’s boyfriend and appreciator of Chumbawumba, who uses his limited screen time to become one of cinema’s greatest douchebag boyfriends. Films like “Knocked Up” have spoiled audiences by getting accomplished comedians to fill out even the smallest of roles, so the contrast is noticeable when movies like “Fired Up!” pluck their actors from third-rate CW shows and give them ridiculously unoriginal characters to play.
With its noble attempts at satire, it’s obvious that “Fired Up!” is trying to rise above dreck like “Meet the Spartans.” An ingenious scene occurs during a screening of “Bring It On,” where the entire camp recites the dialogue word-for-word. The humor is occasionally clever, with jabs at the declining status of network programming and the unrealistic good looks of all teenagers in movies. Unfortunately, these sequences are few and far between; most of the film relies too heavily on lame sexual innuendos. The initials of the title, used heavily in marketing, give audiences a good idea of what to expect.
Ultimately, “Fired Up!” follows the same frustratingly predictable formula as most sports comedies. There is the inevitable misunderstanding, angry confrontation, last-minute reconcilement, inspiring motivational speech and climactic final competition. The banality of the plot is remarkable.
With a little more work on the script, “Fired Up!” could have been a sharp satire in the vein of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” — films that parody a genre within a story typical of the genre. Only Eric Christian Olsen, who should be graduating into lead roles in the near future, really shines in the film. Audiences will snigger throughout “Fired Up!” but will probably forget it as soon as the credits roll.