So Fired Up! (yes, inclusive of exclamation point), with its glossy colors, horndog conceit and middling theatrical PR campaign, is not on the surface the type of movie one expects much from. Perhaps that’s part of its appeal. Or it could be Philip Baker Hall’s repeated exclamations of “Shit!”, if that’s your thing. Either way, there’s much more good than not here, with sly jokes abound. And girls in cheerleading uniforms, too. What’s not to love about that?
Understandably under-enthused at the prospect of another sweltering summer of football camp, randy Gerald R. Ford High jocks Shawn Colfax and Nick Brady (Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen, respectively) enlist the assistance of Shawn’s little sister Poppy (Juliette Goglia) and come up with a plan to pose as cheerleading fans, all in order to infiltrate a weeks-long cheer camp and run up their headboard-notch count. It works, too. The guys are having the time of their lives, using a simply favorable ratio and their new reputations as “sensitive guys” to talk various hotties into skinny-dipping and hooking up. But when Shawn falls for his school’s cute head cheerleader Carly (Sarah Roemer, above center, aka the chick from Disturbia), who is understandably suspicious of their motives, the two players must change their game in order to prove Shawn’s true intentions and thwart Carly’s jerky college boyfriend, Rick (David Walton), all before the thrilling cheer competition finals.
Some of the movie’s rhyming patter doesn’t necessarily work (“You’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit!”), but a goodly portion of the other slang and put-downs connect (Shawn and Nick are derided as “soulless beave-wranglers), and the movie also has the benefit of being self-aware, as captured in a scene in which the cheer campers watch an outdoor screening of Bring It On. There’s also a funny, relatively subtle plot thread in which one of the cheerleaders longs in sapphic fashion for one of her pals. Mostly, though, it’s D’Agosto and Olsen’s breezy, engaging rapport that effectively anchors the movie in winning fashion; they come across as both realistically guided by teenage libido and honest friends, no small feat for a studio teen movie. All these positives help Fired Up! score as basically a reworked Wedding Crashers (an influence to which the filmmaker cops) for the early-twentysomething set.
Another, less positive revelation of the movie? John Michael Higgins is now officially a scene-killer. A staple of Christopher Guest’s improv-laden films who parlayed those gigs into The Break-Up, Fred Claus and all other sorts of comedies — including a series of DirecTV commercials in which he plays a clueless cable television executive — Higgins sucks the funny out of every scene in which he appears in Fired Up!, as a hard-line cheer instructor with a seeming thing for Shawn and Nick. And it doesn’t help, or even really make sense, that his character is supposed to be involved with Molly Sims. (As a side note, Sims seems none too amused when Higgins gropes her in a flubbed scene in the outtakes.) Feel free to fast-forward through his several scenes, and you won’t be missing anything.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, the unrated version of Fired Up! comes to DVD with a bevy of bonus materials. First up is a feature-length shared audio commentary track with director Will Gluck and his two lead actors. Gluck makes plenty of jokes at his movie’s expense (joshing that the movie “is gonna be studied at the USC Film School for years”), but the continuous mocking references to it grossing $100 million eventually start to become a bit tiresome. Otherwise, the work of choreographer Zach Woodlee receives props, and Gluck jokes about both “complexion fixes” for Olsen (13 years removed from high school) and his affection for Edie McClurg, with her frequent John Hughes work being behind the inspiration of casting her as Mrs. Klingerhoff, one of the cheer crew’s faculty advisers. Other tidbits out Roemer as an accomplished swimmer, and credited writer Freedom Jones as actually being a cooperative quartet of writers, inclusive of Gluck. The director also elucidates the differences in vocal/performance payouts for music cues, since Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” is actually sung in the film by a crew of carousing douchebag antagonists.
Other DVD extras include an 8-minute gag reel in which many F-bombs are dropped, and crowing peacocks disrupt shot after shot on location at the Los Angeles Arboretum; a less amusing, two-minute staged bit in which Olsen and D’Agosto are questioned by American Pie‘s Eddie Kaye Thomas at the end of a long press junket day, and erupt in mock anger over being repeatedly asked about the film being “a cheer movie”; and a 16-minute making-of featurette which includes a solid array of cast and crew interviews, as well as more information on the disruptive peacocks. Previews for The House Bunny, Balls Out and 15 other Sony releases round out the title. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B+ (Movie) B (Disc)