[20 February 2009]
Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) and Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto) are star players, football and otherwise, at Gerald R. Ford High School. At the start of Fired Up!, they reveal as well their inability to differences between games and “life.” Just so, Nick quarterbacks their escape from a father angry over his daughter’s lost virtue, leading the boys through a series of routes, eventually landing them in a pool with two bikinied beauties: Game on! all over again.
Dreading the reported rigors and girl-lessness of summer football camp, Nick and Shawn have the brilliant idea to attend cheer camp instead. They are athletes, after all, so they should be able to handle cheering, right? Their plan is painfully simple: “We hook up like crazy for two and half weeks, then bail.” Or, put more poetically, “Hit it and quit it.” Ah, the eloquence…
Even though beautiful squad captain Carley (Sarah Roemer) initially resists, seeing through their scheme, it turns out that cheer squad at their school is terrible, finishing last every year, so the guys can actually be of some use. Nick and Shawn attack their goal with gusto. They are two of only four straight guys at camp, so it takes them no time at all to work their way through “the hot chick produce aisle.” The girls appear just as willing and eager to “hook up” as the guys, save for Carley, of course, and married head coach Diora (Molly Sims). Nick immediately zones in on the unattainable Diora, whom he sees as an easy target since she’s 30 and therefore “ancient.” Her rejection of him only fuels his desire—which is not to say that he slows his progress through the rest of the cheer campers.
Predictably, Shawn falls for Carley and so begins to take cheering more seriously, building up the team’s morale and insisting that her pre-med boyfriend, Rick (David Walton), is no good for her. That his own behavior is at least as bad as Rick’s is all but lost on Shawn, since he’s not cheating on Carley. When Nick announces he’s “had enough girl” and it’s time to head home, Shawn is torn, not only because he now realizes his feelings for Carley but also because he doesn’t want to abandon the team in their hour of need. It’s a wearying and unimaginative crossroads moment. Nick never bothers saying, “Bro’s before ho’s,” but we get it and there is no doubt how it will all end up.
If Fired Up! is attempting to be progressive by portraying most of the girls as nearly as sexually aggressive as Nick and Shawn (and that’s a big “if”), it’s not even making a pretense in its treatment of all things gay. From the closeted Coach Keith (John Michael Higgins) to the sometimes ambiguous Brewster (Adhir Kaylan) and the predatory token lesbian Sylvia (Margo Harshman), stereotypes abound. Carley suggests early on that Nick’s hyper-hetero persona is an effort to repress his own homosexuality, to which he laughingly responds, “I’m too straight to be gay.” It turns out Nick does repress being cruised by fellow cheerleader Downey (Jake Sandvig), taking all his interactions with Downey as straight, good buddy behavior. We see all Downey’s unmistakable advances with Nick as flashbacks and though his denial lends what’s meant to be hilarious credence to the whole repression/denial thing, Nick’s puking in response to the flood of memories surely makes his sexual identity clear.
This aside aside, Nick and Shawn must endure epiphanies. If Shawn’s involves true love for Carley, Nick’s is summed up in a declaration of his true feelings for Diora (“I’m a human!”) It’s all so trite and irritating, grounded as it is in endless unfunny penis jokes. When Shawn sees the error of his ways, telling Nick the whoring “feels wrong,” it’s as if this thought has never occurred to him before now.
Nick’s sage response, “It’s supposed to feel wrong,” may also serve as advice on how we are to take this film. Maybe it’s meant to be the anti-High School Musical, or a parody of teen-boy fantasy. Its one comic moment comes when the entire cheer camp watches Bring it On and recites it line by line in unison. But it lacks that film’s wit and any sort of point, as might be found in, say, Knocked Up (speaking of penis jokes). Fired Up! is the worst of its kind: a cheap imitation of much better films, a 90-minute dirty joke with no punch line.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/70748-fired-up/