Bottom Line:Fired Up! takes a generic premise and turns it into a refreshingly witty and sharp comedy.
Just when I thought Judd Apatow and co. had cornered the comedy market, along came Fired Up! — a movie whose comedic brilliance almost gets smothered beneath one of the most generic premises of all time.
Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) are two high school football stars who, having grown tired of girls at school, decide to forgo two weeks of pre-season training to attend cheerleading camp. A story so fresh and original that it might as well have been conceived by, well, two high school football players. Conceived? Perhaps. Written? Not a chance.
What keeps Fired Up! from deflating into fluffed up February film-going fare is that you are never given the chance to entertain preconceptions once the movie starts. In the same way Shawn and Nick trade pads for pompoms, the film succeeds by being exactly the opposite of what you expect it to be — namely, a clever, if low-brow, barrel of laughs.
As the heir to the cheerleading comedy — a genre perhaps defined only by Bring it On and its myriad spawn of straight-to-video sequels — Fired Up! levels the playing field, allowing guys to laugh along with (if not more than) the girls. To put it bluntly, the script is more chiseled than the bare midriffs on half the film’s cast and has enough plot curves to keep everyone satisfied.
After arriving at cheer camp and engaging in a montage of a slick hookups, Shawn and Nick begin to get caught up in the trials and intrigues of being male cheerleaders, from dealing with jealous boyfriends to cajoling a group of girls to go practice in a pond because “the water resistance gets you a better workout.”
Snappy dialogue and an outrageously strong supporting cast fill the gaps that more typical comedies leave empty. As “Dr.” Rick — the pre-med boyfriend of Shawn’s love interest and relict fan of such ’90s sensations as Chumbawumba and Lou Bega — David Walton gives a studied performance in the Doug Neidermeyer school of douche, while John Michael Higgins as the ambiguously gay Coach Keith and Adhir Kalyan as a flamboyantly gay camper also deliver laughs. AnnaLynne McCord’s screen time as the cheerleader you love to hate is truncated but worth the price of admission.
As the two protagonists, D’Agosto and Olsen exchange quips with the speed and comedic rapport of a latter-day Abbott and Costello and the tact and candor of Steve Stiffler. As they banter and back flip through the film, it plays as over the top. But at its heart isn’t that what cheerleading is about — being over the top? To take the movie seriously or to hold it to some high comedic standard is to miss the point.
To echo one of Shawn and Nick’s favorite expressions — “You have to risk it for the biscuit.” Fired Up! certainly risks it by putting forward a generic premise that deceives you of how fresh the movie actually is. Sure, boob jokes, innuendo and homophobic humor are present throughout, but it is all done in such a witty and topical way (subtly-placed Crocs joke, anyone?) — and is buoyed by a cast that shines on all levels — that you end up forgetting Fired Up! is essentially a movie about guys who go to cheer camp to get with girls.
In writing this review, I feel like I am standing on the sidelines waving pompoms for a movie my gut told me would be bad. But not unlike Shawn and Nick at cheer camp, I went in to Fired Up! not knowing what to expect but ended up having fun.