There is a scene in "Fired Up!" where the students of a cheerleading camp excitedly join together to watch their holy grail of cinema, 2000's "Bring It On
," and proceed to recite the dialogue in tandem with onscreen actors Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford. It's a really cute moment, but also a telling one; once the sequence is over, the viewer wishes they could switch over and watch the rest of that much-better pompom-centric film. If "Bring It On
" is exuberantly filmed and honest to the way teenagers talk and interact, "Fired Up!" is comparative to that lame, irritating second cousin you rarely see and have no interest in hanging out with. Crass and padded with music montages to shield the lack of solid material, it's a PG-13 sex comedy with no actual sex and only the most fleeting of nudity (a boy's bare backside). At no time do the characters act like identifiable human beings, let alone teens with actual thoughts in their shriveled little brains.
Faced with the unappealing prospect of spending the summer at a football program in the steamy desert of El Paso, 16-year-old jocks Shawn Colfax (Nicholas D'Agosto) and Nick Brady (Eric Christian Olsen) instead connive their way onto the roster of a three-week cheerleading camp at nearby Southeastern Illinois University. As two of the only straight males there, they have the pick of the litter, sweet-talking their way into the skirts of their buxom peers. Soon enough, Shawn sets his sights on teammate Carly (Sarah Roemer), who he begins to develop feelings for in spite of her relationship with sneering college freshman Dr. Rick (David Walton). As for Nick, he has his eye on older (and married) cheerleading coach Diora (Molly Sims). In spite of their original intentions, these two young men find themselves becoming genuinely involved in their team as they practice for the cheer-off championships.
"Fired Up!" is the brainchild of first-time director Will Gluck and colorfully-named screenwriter Freedom Jones. One cannot deny that they have at least tried. The picture is well shot, has a soundtrack that often comically compliments the action on the screen, and includes a few clever dialogue exchanges and one-liners. Having the buffoonish Dr. Rick constantly introduced by the '90s songs he has playing in his car (of Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping," he describes it as "the soundtrack of my life") is a nice touch, and the level of sexual innuendo that has sneaked past the MPAA's radar is impressive considering the PG-13 rating. For every joke that works, however, there are countless that hit a brick wall, either due to the amateurish editing, the staleness of the gag, or the absence of a punchline.
The plot and all of its various subplots are uninteresting, at best. The film does not take seriously the sport of competitive cheerleading, instead using it as background filler. When it comes time to film the routines, the movie shoddily cuts around the uninspired choreography and stunt performers. The romance between Shawn and Carly is pedestrian and forgettable, not helped by Carly's wavering intelligence level. It makes no sense, for example, that she would be so wary of Shawn's advances even as she runs into the arms of someone so clearly rotten as cad Dr. Rick. Nick's aims at getting with coach Diora is not developed enough to make an impact, and culminates in a queasy end-credits scene. As for Nick's realization that he has begun to look at his teammates as friends rather than sex object, it holds no weight because nary a moment of time has been afforded in developing any of the girls beyond stereotypes with few, if any, defining traits.
The casting director must have been out to lunch when auditions were being held for the two lead actors. How else to reason the participation of 28-year-old Nicholas D'Agosto, who was playing a high schooler ten years ago in 1999's "Election
," and 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen, whose over-aged appearance was treated as a joke in 2001's "Not Another Teen Movie
?" Olsen's comments about Diora being over-the-hill at thirty comes as ridiculous considering he, in real life, is even older than that. Believability aside, D'Agosto and Olsen do not ingratiate themselves on the viewer enough to want to actively root for them. Shawn and Nick never rise above two dimensions. As Carly, Sarah Roemer (2007's "Disturbia
") grins and bears it, but can't always hide her lack of trust in the script. Supporting performances are serviceable, but the actors are beneath their limited roles. Of them, Philip Baker Hall (2007's "Zodiac
") is amusing as Coach Byrnes, who works the word "shit" into every sentence he utters, whether it makes sense or not.
It goes without saying that "Fired Up!" is predictable, but that wouldn't have mattered were there a semblance of reality or charm to the proceedings. Going the route of an out-and-out spoof would have also been acceptable, but the movie doesn't go far enough in that direction to pass as one. What we have, then, is a throwaway, dumbed-down teen flick where some of the actors are almost twice the age of their characters, no parental figures seemingly exist, and the would-be sexual content is but a tease without a payoff. 13-year-olds everywhere will be happy to know, though, that a scene where a character sucks on anal beads has remained firmly intact.