Girls! Girls! Girls!: 'Fired Up' Offers Snacks on Snacks

City Pulse | February 16, 2009
A shameless celebration of female nubility, Fired Up! is a peppy teen sex comedy that draws on a perfectly pitched pop music score, a bevy of scantily clad cheerleaders, and the quick-fire camaraderie of its skirt-chasing buddies Shawn and Nick (Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen). The Illinois high school football-playing pals have a systematic approach to conquering the legion of hotties that surround them. The pair forgo summer football camp in favor of catching fish-in-a-barrel at cheerleading camp in El Paso, Texas where their school's "Tiger" team is outnumbered by a legion of pep rally girls from competing national squads. Shawn's well connected little sister Poppy (played with spunk by Juliette Goglia) gives the boys a crash course in the basic skills of male cheer leading. The movie hits its stride of athletic fun under Coach Keith (played for laughs by John Michael Higgins) and his no-nonsense wife Diora (Molly Sims). Nick sets his sites on seducing Diora while Shawn goes for a more traditional route pursuing the Tiger's captain Carly (Sarah Roemer performs Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike-duties) in spite of Carly's romantic involvement with a bratty med student who insists on calling himself "Dr. Rick." There isn't anything special here, but Fired Up! is still a lot more fun than any of the adult romantic comedies Hollywood has trotted out so far this year.

There's a tendency to attack profanity-laced teen sex comedies like Fired Up! for their conventional storylines that necessarily gravitate around making out and the circuitous routes their juvenile characters go in order to get in their would-be partner's business. Times have changed dramatically for hormone-raging boys and girls who can get an internet crash course in the seemingly infinite range of sexual possibilities available to humanity. With this in mind, Fired Up! is, if anything, a restrained vision of athletic fun-loving kids taking advantage of time away from their parents to fully express themselves. The lasting influence of the classic teen cheerleader comedy Bring It On comes through in the kids' slavish attention to having memorized its every line of dialogue when they speak the movie while watching it at an outdoor screening. With this film-in-film device, Fired Up! reinforces itself with its target audience.

Screenwriter Freedom Jones doesn't shy away from including gay and lesbian teen characters in the mix, and director Will Gluck balances a matter-of-fact tone around all of the characters' hotly budding sexuality. Perhaps the movie's greatest achievement is its well-timed editing that enables a bubbling score of electornica and hip-hop music to gently infect the wise-beyond-their-years attention of Nick and Shawn to the opportunities before them. Sure these guys are pigs in their dirty little minds, but they approach the opposite sex with a kindness and polite irony that suggests generosity as much as selfishness.

Fired Up! is a genre movie that operates inside of a comedic safety bubble of gleeful intentionality. The reckless tempo and boundless energy of its young characters has more room to roam than in a lesser effort like Sex Drive. There's genuine jubiliation here. We see it in the routines that the kids perform with variable success. Funny set-pieces come in a quick enough succession that any fluffed notes are soon glossed over. There's even a little surprise in the inevitable cheerleading competition climax that finishes the story. It's a suspended grace note that puts "personal best" in a context of team mentality, even if cheerleading is far removed from running or swimming. I'm not saying there's any high minded message here, merely that the story does have a small dose of merit.

Rated PG-13. 89 mins. (B) (Three Stars)
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