It sounds like that the kind of thing that would have been right at home with the teen comedies of twenty years ago, or even the brief “American Pie”-ish revival. But compared to current stuff it’s actually kind of quaint. The problem is the tone. Despite the fact that it is an unapologetic teen sex comedy, there’s no sex in it. Romance is confined to the neck up, and the jokes and dialogue have been similarly bowdlerized. The result is a tame “American Pie,” which really misses the point of those kinds of movies. They sell themselves on titillation and if they actually are funny on top of that, it tends to be more of a bonus than an expectation. That’s not so much a problem of the genre as movies in general, being funny is hard, and sex can be a useful hedge. But you can’t really go halfway. “Fired Up!” is stuck on the surface features of these kinds of films, which are about as sharp as a dinner theater comedian.
It might not entirely be the filmmakers’ fault. Considering how raunchy the few minutes of outtakes on the credits are, the film’s PG-13 rating may have been enforced after the fact. Still, it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows what this movie is supposed to be. Despite centering on the male leads, and having a very guy-centric plot, the longer it stays at cheer camp the more it turns into a “Bring It On” wannabe. But I don’t think we’ll ever see an entire cheer camp watching “Fired Up!” while repeating the entire movie verbatim. It’s too masculine for girls to really get into it, and too effeminate for guys. Going one way or the other would have been fine, but trying to do both at the same time just kills it.
It could all be excusable if it were really funny, but it’s not. First time writer Freedom Jones tries too hard most of the time. Nick and Shawn’s clever’ dialogue tends to involve quick rhyming bon mots and talking simultaneously as they show their complete mastery over life, such as being able to guess how many times their irascible football coach (Phillip Baker Hall) will say ‘sh*t’ in a sentence. There are a few chuckles here in there, but none Jones doesn’t see fit to drive into the ground through repetition. Doctor Rick (David Walton), the obnoxious boyfriend of the object of Shawn’s affection, is the worst example, as someone thinks he’s far, far funnier than he is. He’s a very thinly sketched frat boy who uses bad nicknames and only listens to pop music from the late nineties (which is probably reason enough to hate him). The idea is funny, but a little Doctor Rick goes a long, long way.
Despite that, the cast is charming enough that, under better circumstances, they might have made this turkey fly. Old hands like Hall and John Michael Higgins, as the cheer camps head coach, have done this sort of thing before and get you exactly what you expect. D’Agosto tries really, really hard and usually manages to come off as winning instead of obnoxious. Team captain Carly (Sarah Roemer) mainly just has to be obvious and oblivious like any good straight man, but the rest of the girls actually do surprisingly well with the one joke each gets to define them. Olsen, however, is far too old for the part he’s playing, and after a while you just want him to stop talking.
Still, if “Fired Up!” is the worst movie I see this year, I’ll count myself lucky. In some ways it’s a valiant effort from first time feature filmmakers who don’t really know what they’re doing yet. There are some small glimmers of promise; not enough to make “Fired Up!” worth watching, but enough that the next thing they make might be.