[Screen It]

(2009) (Nicholas D'Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen) (PG-13)

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Comedy: Hoping to hook up with various young women, two high school jocks forgo football camp and instead head off for cheerleading camp.
Quarterback Nick (ERIC CHRISTIAN OLSEN) and wide receiver Shawn (NICHOLAS D'AGOSTO) are the star players on the Gerald R. Ford High Tigers football team. When they hear that foul-mouthed Coach Byrnes (PHILIP BAKER HALL) will be taking the team to El Paso rather than a place they imagine will be filled with lots of scantly clad women, they're disappointed. But opportunity comes knocking when they realize that if they join the cheerleading squad they'll likely be the only straight guys surrounded by hundreds of athletic and hopefully willing young women at a cheer camp.

Despite the protests of squad leader Carly (SARAH ROEMER) who sees through their scheme, Nick and Shawn -- with the help of the latter's younger but too wise for her years sister, Poppy (JULIETTE GOGLIA) -- are allowed to join since they might help the girls finish somewhere higher than last place at a championship meet.

Accordingly, the guys join them in traveling to the cheer camp lead by Coach Keith (JOHN MICHAEL HIGGINS) and his wife, Diora (MOLLY SIMS). While stuck rooming with the likes of Brewster (ADHIR KALYAN) and Downey (JAKE SANDVIG), the guys quickly try to hook up with as many female cheerleaders as possible. But while Nick becomes obsessed with conquering Diora who wants nothing to do with him, Shawn becomes drawn to Carly.

However, since she's dating pre-med student, Rick (DAVID WALTON), and must contend with a rival cheerleading squad led by the condescending Gwyneth (ANNALYNNE McCORD), Carly only sees Shawn as a friend. From that point on, the guys end up derailing their own plans as they decide to stick around and try to help their cheerleading squad win.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
I knew a person back in college who nearly tried out for the cheerleading squad. While that might not sound unusual, it was back in the mid 1980s at a school not known for such extracurricular organized cheering, and to top it off, that person was a guy. Of course, there's nothing wrong with male cheerleaders, especially now that such rah-rah-sis-boom-bah sideline activity has turned into a competitive sport of its own.

Back then, however, it was decidedly un-cool for a guy to consider, and this person was only thinking of joining the squad because his girlfriend at the time wanted him to. Fortunately for him, we talked him off the pyramid, so to speak, which is a good thing since his kids to this day still tease him about even considering that.

For Nick and Shawn, star players of the Gerald R. Ford High School football team, they similarly want to join the cheerleading squad. Yet, while "love" is also their reason, it's of just of the physical and not emotional and/or romantic variety. They've apparently run through all of the available girls locally, and upon hearing that 300 or so will be attending a cheer camp, the two guys decide that sounds like an unlimited smorgasbord and thus attend that rather than football camp.

Their efforts make up the bulk of the shenanigans of "Fired Up!" a comedy best described as "American Pie" meets "Bring It On." As those two titles would suggest, it's a combination of raucous sex comedy and hip cheerleader dramedy, complete with enough snarky comments, slang and cultural references to make the likes of "Juno" sound like a staid congressional hearing on banking in comparison.

In fact, it's the latter that provides the film's funniest moments but also continuously threatens to overload the viewer's ears and patience regarding the preponderance of witty comments (such as "That's close enough, Jonas brother" and "Not here Shawshank," to name just a few of the plethora offered up). At first, I found all of that annoying in the sense of the film trying too hard to be the hippest of the land, but after a while -- and, I suppose, after my resistance to all of that was worn down by the never-ending onslaught -- it slightly grew on me.

Beyond that, there's the sex comedy material, with D'Agosto and Olson (who don't even come close to passing for high school aged guys, what with being 28 and 31) taking over the sort of characters that populated the "American Pie" films. But the PG-13 rating hampers what the filmmakers -- director Will Gluck and screenwriter Freedom Jones -- can get away with, while Nick isn't as wild and impishly devil-may-care as Stifler (although he's clearly cut from the same mold) and Shawn is just a composite of the rest of male "AP" personas.

While some younger viewers might laugh at the barely covered nude scenes (the guys unexpectedly ending up that way, and being forced to cheer au naturel with just pompoms and camera angles to cover anything too explicit), it's nothing we haven't seen before and certainly isn't as clever as what they did in the "Austin Powers" movies (or the old "Benny Hill" show decades before that).

The film also runs the risk of inviting too many comparisons to "Bring It On," not only in just the subject matter, rival cheer camps, the big competition, and those snarky remarks and gestures, but also in actually showing clips from that previous pic. The latter occurs at an outdoor screening where all of the cheer camp attendees recite lines from the pic in unison. It's a funny bit, but it can't help but remind viewers of the far better film.

It certainly doesn't help that the pacing, overall direction and editing are substandard, giving this effort a choppy and rushed feel. Throw in a predictable plot (will anyone be surprised that the guys end up helping the squad rather than just trying to bed everyone, or that D'Agosto's character will end up falling for the squad leader played by Sarah Roemer, who's also too old for the part?) and the result isn't as enjoyable or entertaining as it obviously thinks it is. While there are some fun and funny moments, there simply aren't enough to overcome the rest of the film's problems. "Fired Up!" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed February 11, 2009 / Posted February 20, 2009

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