If one would like a litmus test for the brand of comedy on display in Will Gluck’s Fired Up!, go no further than the film’s poster. In great big whopping orange letters are the initials of the movie’s title: “F.U.” Get it? Well, if you don’t, first-time feature director Gluck and first-time screenwriter Freedom Jones make sure to bring the gag back for a protracted scene within the movie proper. If it weren’t bad enough that this little play on words soars to the pinnacle of utter lameness, it also happens to be a joke that was used in last year’s College, my personal choice for worst movie of 2008. Cribbing jokes from that movie isn’t quite scraping the bottom of the barrel; it’s more like getting underneath the barrel and scrubbing it clean with your toothbrush.
But even while lifting an already terrible joke from an already terrible movie, Fired Up! never comes close to being as willfully awful as College. Don’t mistake this for a sign of quality, since Fired Up! is rarely entertaining—and even more infrequently funny. The very best that can be said about Gluck’s movie is that it has enough sense not to be obnoxious.
Fired Up! is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill teen-sex comedy, with its only notable feature being a scaled-down amount of raunch in favor of a PG-13 rating. This does, thankfully, keep the scatological humor at bay. But beyond that, it’s the usual parade of full-grown adults playing high-school kids.
In this case, we have 28-year-old Nicholas D’Agosto and 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen (Eagle Eye) as Shawn and Nick, two high-school seniors and hotshot football players whose sole ambition in life is the sexual conquest of as many females as possible. This mind-set leads them to the grand epiphany that if they bamboozle their way onto the school’s cheerleading squad they can make their way to cheer camp and have their pick of the 300 girls in attendance.
Of course, things do not go as planned, due to the fact that the boys underestimate the transformative power of cheerleading and soon find themselves growing as people. Important life lessons are learned. The odd thing is that this whole contrivance is handled in a surprisingly mature—if still manufactured—manner. Shawn’s realization that he’s in love with the straight-laced cheer captain (Sarah Roemer, Disturbia) is nothing new. But Nick’s change is nicely cultivated, from his standing as the über-alpha male (early in the film he speechifies on his apparent deservedness of a “straight award”) to the realization that not every homosexual is a flaming stereotype. The film is shrewd in this manner, since Fired Up! deals in these same conventions throughout most of the movie, only to play against expectations. When taking the movie’s target audience into account and the genre’s penchant for dabbling in homophobia, the film becomes strangely refreshing.
This doesn’t, however, mean Fired Up! is funny by any means. The movie is basically a collection of half-baked PG-13 wisecracks, none of which are terribly clever or original. The only time the film is even amusing is when it’s poking fun at the mediocrity of modern life through random pop-culture references—like with the jokes about Canadian rock band Nickelback, frat-boy mentalities or the character of Dr. Rick (David Walton). Dr. Rick is a BMW convertible-driving, Croc-wearing meathead, who listens to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” and proclaims things like, “It’s the soundtrack to my life.” The only issue is that all these targets are a bit too easy, not to mention the inherent irony of a wholly uninspired and undistinguished comedy trying to point out the middling nature of others. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, partial nudity, language and some teen partying.