February 20, 2009 in Features

‘Fired Up’ hot with juvenile fantasy

Michael Phillips Chicago Tribune
 
Sony Pictures photo

Nicholas D’Agosto and Sarah Roemer star in “Fired Up.” Sony Pictures
(Full-size photo)

I didn’t half-mind “Fired Up,” but half a mind is more than it deserves. It’s “Wedding Crashers” with high school seniors and bras and panties, as opposed to Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and copious toplessness.

Now and then, though, somebody says something funny.

“You really want these strong-jawed philanderers on your squad?” fires the cheerleading camp commandant played by John Michael Higgins. Was it the line, or the ringing intensity of Higgins’ delivery, that sold it?

Elsewhere the dialogue includes references to Alvin Ailey, Nathan Lane, the Jonas Brothers, the late anthropologist Louis Leakey and “Hamlet 2.” You certainly can’t say the same about “Bring It On,” which figures in another effective micro-moment – little here works for a full moment – wherein hundreds of cheerleaders recite the dialogue while watching an outdoor screening of the Kirsten Dunst cheerleading spectacular.

Now for a discussion of the narrative. Two vaguely unsympathetic hotshots played by Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen duck football camp so they can join the overwhelmingly female cheerleading squad.

Can you imagine the possibilities? Well then, you’re halfway to becoming a screenwriter!

Cheer camp, they learn, is a rolling meadow of pliable teen nubility. While the campus we see is supposed to be a place called Southeastern Illinois University, we’re strictly in Southern California fantasy land.

The sincere one, Shawn (D’Agosto, from “Rocket Science,” a pretty good actor), falls in love with the squad leader (Sarah Roemer, from “Disturbia”). The less sincere one, Nick (Olsen, who strains to amuse, and whose Owen Wilson impersonation keeps morphing into Jim Carrey), cooks up the cheerleading scam so he and his pal can “hook up like maniacs.”

But he, too, develops a crush for a one special hottie, the coach’s wife, played by Molly Sims. She’s just north of 30.

“Just the way I like ’em,” he says. “Ancient and regretful.”

Director Will Gluck is a first-time feature filmmaker, and he directs like a producer who thought it would be fun to try directing. The script is credited to “Freedom Jones,” and it’s a patch-up job – lamely raunchy most of the time, entertainingly strange in some of its riffs – developed by one of the producers, Matthew Gross, a friend of one of the other producers, Peter Jaysen, who is responsible for the Maxim film label.

Jaysen, no surprise, produced the TV specials “Maxim Hot 100” and “Maxim’s Most Awesome.”

I’m not sure why the film’s collaborators went the PG-13 route, except to ensure that whatever “Fired Up” makes in its theatrical release, it’ll double its take as an unrated DVD.

For times and locations, see page 6.


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