Fired Up! (review)

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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