Fired UpReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 02/20/09 00:00:00
Although the jaw-droppingly inane teen sex comedy “Fired Up” was apparently designed to serve as the first big-screen endeavor from Maxim magazine, following in the fine tradition of such other sterling newsstand-to-multiplex transfers as Mad Magazine’s “Up the Academy” (which turned out so appallingly that both the magazine and star Ron Leibman demanded that their names be removed from the final product), Rolling Stone’s “Perfect” and the direct-to-video atrocity bearing the National Lampoon logo of your choice, it would appear that is no longer the case--the name is nowhere to be found on any of the advertising or on the film itself. This is somewhat strange because of all of the films that I have mentioned here, it is the one that comes closest to representing its print counterpart in that both plenty of reasonably hot B-level starlets in various stages of undress, terrible writing and a sniggering, frat-boy attitude that all but slaps you on the back and calls you “Bro” while sloshing cheap domestic beer all over the place. Of course, one can easily avoid the writing and attitude in the print version simply by turning straight to the pictures of the babes but alas, one does not have that luxury with “Fired Up.“ If you want the one (meaning the babes, of course), you have to take the other two as well and unless you are a 13-year-old slack-wit with raging hormones and absolutely no taste in entertainment that seems to be the target audience demographic, that is a deal that anyone with even the slightest shreds of personal dignity will find surprisingly easy to refuse, especially now that the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is on the stands.Based on the epic-length novel that Norman Mailer managed to spend his entire career never getting around to writing, “Fired Up” tells the story of two high-school studs, the smarmy Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto) and the smarmier Nick (Eric Christian Olsen), whose upcoming summer is looking bleak for a couple of reasons--the lotharios have pretty much plowed their ways through all of their female classmates and they are facing the prospect of spending several weeks at football camp in the blazing hot and girl-free environs of El Paso, Texas. Using the kind of cool-headed logic normally not seen outside of the confines of a lesser rerun of “What’s Happening?,” the two hit upon a plan that will solve both of their problems in one fell swoop--they will join their school’s faltering cheerleading squad, go off with them to cheerleader camp, spend the majority of that time spreading their foul drop amongst the hundreds of other girls attending and head back home before the climactic cheer competition that will pit them against their anorexic competitors. Although the head cheerleader, Carly (Sarah Roemer), objects to the idea on the not-unreasonable basis that the guys know nothing about cheering and that they are only interested in screwing around, no one else seems to have a problem with this and before long, Shawn and Nick are spending their days demonstrating their cheerleading prowess for camp leader/closet case Coach Keith (John Michael Higgins) and impossibly hot wife/beard Diora (Molly Sims) and their nights demonstrating their other prowess for their fellow students. In developments that will no doubt shock anyone who actually wants to plunk down money to see this thing, Shawn and Nick discover that they actually like cheerleading and their teammates but just before the big competition, their original plan to bail early is discovered and they are sent packing in shame. Whether they decide selflessly return to lead their teammates to victory, whether they attempt to do so by performing some incredibly dangerous trick that they have never practiced before and whether they wind up defeating their various rivals and nailing their dream girls--these are questions whose answers I wouldn’t dream of revealing here. Oh, the hell with it--the answers are yes, yes, sort of and sort of.
There are so many things wrong with “Fired Up” that if I actually bothered to sit down and list out every single one of them in detail, it would probably turn out to be twice as long the screenplay by Freedom Jones (yes, Freedom Jones) and almost assuredly twice as funny. I could point out the hateful attitude that the displays towards women, minorities, gays, lesbians. . .basically anyone who isn’t an ultra-hetero male, the complete lack of comedy chops demonstrated by the cast, the inane running jokes that start off tiresome and grow even more so as things progress (in the lamest, Nick begins pursuing the older Diora even though he keeps telling everyone that she is some kind of dinosaur--a joke that isn’t funny on the surface and is even stupider when you realize that the character delivering these insults is a high school student being played by an actor who is nearly 32 years old himself) and the incredibly depressing sight of the great Philip Baker Hall (whose performance as Richard Nixon in Robert Altman’s “Secret Honor” is one of the greatest performances that you will ever see in your entire life) popping up in a cameo as the foul-mouthed football coach whose every other word is some variation of “shit.” That said, the biggest and most devastating flaw, the one that would have doomed the entire project even if everything else had been firing on all cylinders, is the inescapable fact that “Fired Up” features two of the most completely loathsome and irredeemably hateful jerks to ever appear on a movie screen as our heroes. Face it, for a teen sex comedy to succeed, and I’ll toss out “Risky Business,” “The Sure Thing” and “American Pie” as three successful examples of this genre, you need lead characters who are sweet, likable and somewhat awkward so that we in the audience can actually begin to develop some kind of rooting interest in their attempts to get lucky with the opposite sex. “Fired Up,” on the other hand, introduces us to two lead characters who have already had sex with practically the entire female population of their student body and then wants us to root for them to have even more sex with another gaggle of gals. This is such an epic miscalculation--something on the level of making “Animal House” and asking us to root for the Omegas instead of the Deltas--that for a minute or two, I was hoping that all the advertising for the film was going to turn out to be a massive bait-and-switch and that Jones and director Will Gluck (yes, Will Gluck) were somehow going to pull off a complete subversion of this particular subgenre. As it turns out, not only is there no subversion about, we are actually supposed to find these two cretins and their abhorrent and thoroughly obnoxious behavior, both in in general and in regards to the opposite sex, to be somehow charming and delightful. Not only is that not the case here, the two are so repellent to anyone with a modicum of good taste that when the film’s main villain arrives in the form of Dr. Rick (David Walton), who is Carly’s mean, self-centered, obnoxious and terminally unfaithful boyfriend (all qualities that Carly is completely unable to detect, even though she is supposed to be the smart one of the group), he is virtually indistinguishable from the guys whom we are supposed to be rooting for in the first place.“Fired Up” is a film that has the moral, ethical and artistic standards of a bottom-of-the-barrel porn film, only without any actual porn to serve as a possible compensating factor. (Oh yeah, despite the premise, this is one raunchy sex comedy that contains absolutely no nudity in order to score a commercially viable PG-13 rating and inspire an inevitable “Unrated” DVD sometime in the next couple of weeks.) This is a film so scuzzy and creepy in tone--even more so since it is supposed to be a comedy--that you keep getting the sense that if there was any possible that it could slip a roofie into your soda while you weren’t looking, it would. And yet, because it is, with the sole exception of the new Tyler Perry opus, the only new film getting a major release this weekend, there is the terrifying possibility that there may be enough bored kids out there to not only allow it to make money but to ensure that a follow-up will be coming in a couple of years. (I am not being paranoid--even the ultra-loathsome “Waiting” has a direct-to-video sequel hitting stores this week.) With any luck, this potential sequel will involves our “heroes” showing up for another cheer camp, only to discover too late that it is located off the banks of mighty Crystal Lake. Actually, with any luck, the production of this potential sequel will be located off the banks of mighty Crystal Lake and the people responsible for this swill will get what they deserve. Now there is an idea worth cheering for.
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