Fired Up! (review)

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Douse It

I’ve always suspected that teen-boy fantasies like the execrable Fired Up! had to be based on the adolescent wet dreams of 40something Hollywood nerds who suddenly find themselves in positions of power enough to bring their juvenile reveries to, at last, some sort of satisfying climax. Satisfying to them, at least, one imagines. And Matthew Gross, producer of this disagreeable cinematic emanation, admits that Fired Up! is “based upon his own high school experience when he and his best friend decided to join the yell squad in order to attend cheerleading camp to meet girls.” (This from the press notes for the film, which are rarely so unintentionally enlightening.)
One must also imagine, however, that the wild success that the two high school Casanovas of Fired Up! — or FU, as Screen Gems would like us to think of it, and ho, is that appropriate — has always been strictly in the realm of fantasy. The two pals here, the Dark-Haired One (Nicholas D’Agosto: Heroes) and the Blond One (Eric Christian Olsen: Eagle Eye, License to Wed), are absurd even grading on the idiot-comedy curve, and cannot possibly exist in real life. They hate football but they’re the stars of their high-school team. A day after they decide to join the cheerleading team in order to rack up hooking-up points at summer cheer camp, they’re pulling difficult moves so impressively that even the cheer coach is in love with them. They’re brilliant, too, apparently: one’s a science whiz who puts Carl Sagan’s ability to make physics understandable to shame, and the other’s a poet whose pretty words make female knees buckle. They’re ridiculously perfect, and perfectly ridiculous. But not in any amusing way… except, perhaps, to overgrown adolescents who haven’t gotten over their lack of total and utter coolness in high school.

Oh, and their success with the high-school ladies is preposterous. It helps that the girls are all clearly too stupid to notice that the Blond One can never remember their names and is being fed cues by the Dark-Haired One. But the girls must be morons, because it’s the only explanation for how the boys can succeed in publicly reducing them all, to a one, to pieces of meat, to conquests to be made and them moved on from. Unless one intends to propose that literally all a woman requires from man to spread her legs for him is a few sweet yet clearly untrue words. And perhaps that is the intent, because in a school of, as one of the guys notes, 3,000 students and fresh out of untainted meat for the guys to chew through, not one of the gals seems to be in the least bit upset with them.

In a better movie this might have been a vindication for abandoning uptight moralities and a salute to casual but healthy sex. Here, though, the women are dupes of the men — they’re like the “bottomless breadsticks at Olive Garden”; girls who “respect themselves too much” only bring “drama” to a hookup — and not true partners of them. What could have been something hearty and earthy and bouncy and sexy is instead unpleasant like sweaty bedsheets… sweaty with someone else’s sweat, that is. (The unpleasant script comes via Freedom Jones, whose prose should be as mellifluous as his name, unless that’s a pseudonym, which I think it may be. TV vet Will Gluck makes an inauspicious directorial debut.)

I say “women” and “men” — and I cannot get worked up over the blatant attempt to objectify the bodies of teenage girls that is clearly the intent of almost all of the cheerleading bits here — because all these actors look more like 27 than 17 (D’Agosto is 28, Olsen 31!). Which only adds to the absurdity, and demonstrates further than this is not about any genuine experience of adolescence but constitutes merely the climax to a teenage masturbatory fantasy you’d have thought would have been abandoned long ago. It even manages to weave in the upset adolescent males of all ages get themselves twisted up in over the “nice guy” issue. You’ve heard the whine: Why do girls like jerks like that asshole over there instead of nice guys like me? For once at cheer camp, the Dark-Haired One decides he really does really like — like, for real and all — the head cheerleader (Sarah Roemer, age 24: Disturbia), but she’s got that jerk boyfriend (David Walton [Stateside], who appears to be about 40, is actually 31, and is playing a college freshman). The Jerk Boyfriend is barely distinguishable from our doofus “heroes”: they all lie and cheat to get what they want from women, and care not a whit about the women, even if the Jerk Boyfriend is less smooth about it. (He doesn’t need to be any smoother than he is, apparently, for even though Head Cheerleader can “see right through” the scam the Dark-Haried One and the Blond One are pulling, she can’t seem to see through Jerk Boyfriend’s assholery. Which is really bizarre.)

Our “heroes” don’t see that they’re just like Jerk Boyfriend, of course — “nice guys” never do. And the movie doesn’t see it either: the Casanova stuff is overt and intentional, but the Nice Guy whining isn’t. I’d say this makes Fired Up! worth a look for its psychological value, except it really isn’t. It’s about as entertaining as a joke about venereal disease… which you’ll find here, too, of course. That uncomfortable itch isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Well, it might be a bug, too.

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Fri, Feb 20, 2009 5:52pm

I find myself wondering if there is a law against having actual teenagers star in that sort of soft core “movie.” Something against exploitation of a minor, perhaps?

Blank Frank
Blank Frank
Sat, Feb 21, 2009 5:00pm

The implication is of constant, hassle-free sex, “teenage situations”, the advertising poster itself is hinting at a common abbreviation for “fuck you”, there’s probably some cursing, and what is cryptically referred to as “teen partying” all get a PG-13.

Frost/Nixon gets an R, because Nixon says “motherfucker” a couple times and you see the dreaded Bare Male Ass for five seconds.

God bless the MPAA. Else, how would I know that a dramatized account of one of the biggest historical documents of the 20th century is immoral and unfit for minors without adult supervision, but debauchery, casual sex, and degradation of women as a plot point is cool for teens?

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 9:21am

“Why do girls like jerks like that asshole over there instead of nice guys like me?”
Don’t you think there’s some truth to that, though? I’ve met many assholes who have no shortage of dates and girlfriends. Even the girls know that they’re getting played but they’re still with the guys anyway. Almost every guy I’ve talked to who is a real “stud”, and always have women hanging off of them, have all told me the same thing, “that the key to getting women to like you is to treat them like shit. Because if you’re too nice to them or too respectful of them they’ll think you’re a pansy and move on.” Even if the guys who think that they are “nice guys” are not really, why do women so often go after the self admitted “assholes”.

bitchen frizzy
bitchen frizzy
Mon, Feb 23, 2009 9:50am

–“I find myself wondering if there is a law against having actual teenagers star in that sort of soft core “movie.” Something against exploitation of a minor, perhaps?”

Not a lot of teenage SAG members. Casting directors have to make do with older actors.

–“Don’t you think there’s some truth to that, though?”

I used to complain about that when I was younger, too. It came of idealizing women and being puzzled when they acted no better or more mature than men. When a woman just wants to get laid and have a good time, of course she turns to the sexually-experienced stud. Doesn’t mean she’s serious about him or intends to marry him.

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 11:46am

Whoa, whoa, whoa…. there’s some serious Family Guy-esque misogyny being tossed around here.

1) Many women are attracted to confident men (and/or women). That is, men who are confident enough not to appear needy or desperate. Men do NOT need to “treat women like shit” to appear confident, although many men sadly take that route.

2) Some women are attracted to men who treat them poorly. In a few cases, as frizzy pointed out, this is because the women are just looking for a good time and they need a skilled partner with no strings attached. In many cases, it’s because the women have been socialized to equate mental, emotional, and/or physcial abuse with love. This is NOT normal or acceptable, and men who take advantage of these women are scum (not cool rebel scum either).

3) Some younger women (mostly teens) are naturally attracted to older, confident men who talk down to them because they lack self esteem. This is a normal phase of adolescence and not necessarily tied to the more serious issues above, but in my opinion, the men who take it upon themselves to “educate” these young women are also usually scum (hello J.D. Salinger and Woody Allen). I admit I’m kinda old fashioned on this one though.

4) You should be kind and respectful towards women (and men), because those qualities should naturally be a part of your personality and you should be confident enough to be yourself. There’s a big difference between joking around with a person (like most people do with their close friends) and treating someone like shit.

Lots of men have come to equate sexual desire with the desire to objectify and verbally abuse women (too much porn? rap videos? movies like this one? biology?) I’m not saying that there aren’t women out there who get turned on by that attitude, I’m just saying it’s dangerous to suggest that ALL women are like that. Life is not a rap video, if two or more mature adults agree to role-play in the bedroom, more power to them, but pretending not to respect someone and abusing them just to get laid is frankly disgusting. And if you do it, you’re just as much of an asshole as the “genuine” assholes that you’re imitating, probably worse since you know better.

Trust me, all other factors being equal, a kind, respectful, funny, intelligent, confident person is much more attractive than an arrogant, belligerant, abusive, doofus. Unless of course your goal is have sex with as many other ignorant, desperate, hot (of course), individuals with low self esteem as you can. If that’s the case, then I’ve got news for you, you already ARE an asshole, and should consider a career in film directing, marketing, or the financial services industry. Being a self-proclaimed “nice guy” can be frustrating, but that’s no excuse to turn to the Dark Side.

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 5:01pm

This isn’t really the movie for the direction this discussion is taking, since there appear to be no “nice guys” in it. “Sense and Sensibility” would be a better movie, since Marianne Dashwood goes through the process of loving a man who is confident because he doesn’t care all that much to loving a man who is shy because he really does care. The TV show “West Wing” has several plotlines concerning women in various degrees of empowerment and how that changes their personal relationships with men.

Now we could argue about if this movie is just an unconscious projection of Hollywood life, with lots of jerks sleeping with lots of babes, or a conscious capitalist attempt to appeal to the movie dollar of MAXIM customers, or we could even talk about the level of denial it takes for a jerk to think he’s a nice guy, but lets leave actual Nice Guys out of it, please?

Fri, Feb 27, 2009 3:42pm

Difficult to say whether this is true, but a theory posited to me is that “assholes” generally have the ego and undying belief in their own universal amazingness to actually ask out the women they desire. On the other hand, self-proclaimed “nice guys” often talk themselves out of it (“she’d never say yes to to a guy like me” or “she’s out of my league”).

Usually my answer to these complaints is: “Well, if she’s so dense as to date a moronic jerk-off, why do you want to date her so much? How about that Nice Girl over there?”

Back on the movie, I haven’t seen it, but I remember a scene from the trailer. Both our heroes, probably in their first practise, drop a cheerleader they had tossed and were supposed to catch. My first thought as I watched it was: “I think she’d be paralyzed if she fell from that height with that force. Wait. This is funny?”

Fri, Feb 27, 2009 4:30pm

“Nice guys” — please note the quotes — aren’t those men who are genuinely kind, considerate, pleasant to be around, etc. “Nice guys” are the ones who are obsequious suckups because they think that’s what will attract women. (Often “nice guys” are also wishy-washy doormats, too, but that’s not the case with the Dark-Haired One here.)

The point is that “nice guys” are playing games as much as the out-and-out assholes are, but they don’t realize it, and whine when their gameplaying doesn’t work.

Genuinely nice people may be disappointed when they’re attracted to someone who is not attracted to them, but they don’t think they’re entitled to have their feelings reciprocated because they believe they’re playing the game in a certain way. But as someone else noted here: Guys, if you want a girl who wants to be treated like shit, what’s stopping you from treating women like shit?

As disturbing as it is that so many women do appear to want to be treated badly by men, it’s equally disturbing that so many men appear to want women so damaged.

The only good point this movie makes is that girls with a healthy sense of self-esteem want nothing to do with these two losers. Of course, that means these two know that they’re preying on girls with low self-esteem. That they’re still the “heroes” even in light of that makes this movie truly despicable.

Fri, Feb 27, 2009 6:16pm

“Guys, if you want a girl who wants to be treated like shit, what’s stopping you from treating women like shit?”

That would be because he’s a nice guy, who is under the impression that if he treated a woman with low self esteem well, she would feel better and like him for it. Some of us are from families where the father treats the mother pretty well, after all, so model that behavior.

I’ve learned the hard way that a “bad girl” doesn’t want to stop dating “bad boys” until she has a kid that the “bad boy” won’t help her raise. Then she remembers the “nice guy” who tried to “rescue” her before. I’m using those quotes not because I think these are real people, who are more complex, but because these are roles that get played out in society.