Thursday, February 19, 2009

Post-funny

A film from Maxim magazine can't seal the deal

Posted on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 4:00 AM

***
Fired Up!
Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Nicholas D Agosto, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Roemer, Danneel Harris, Nicole Tubiola
Director: Will Gluck
WorkNameSort: Fired Up!
Our Rating: 3.00

Rarely does a ticket-buyer get a double feature for their money anymore, but Fired Up! is two movies rolled into one. On the surface, this raunchy comedy from Moving Pictures DPI (the entertainment division of Maxim magazine) and a screenwriter called Freedom Jones (a first-timer who I'm relatively sure is an embarrassed pseudonym indicating a conference room full of hacks) is a formulaic, cynical and sometimes homophobic exercise in derivation. That movie is not only a waste of the audience's time, it should be investigated for crimes against celluloid.  

But there's another film at play here, one that almost elevates the material to the level of a midnight-stoner classic. In this film, the two leads - nothing more than a third-rate Owen and Luke Wilson in the first aspect of the film - come off as almost a postmodern Clark and McCullough in the second, commenting with rapid-fire irony and familiarity on the awful movie going on in front of them. Their self-effacing banter gets tiresome quickly, but the few laughs that can be pried from the cold, dead hands of this script lie in their MST3K-like disconnect. 

Those characters are the stars of their high-school football team. They are so bored with the game - and the apparently endless procession of women they're rewarded with for their prowess - that they hatch a scheme to invade cheerleading camp where, they assume (correctly) a fresh lineup of, ahem, suckers await them. They're despicable people, and in any other movie would be villains for a plucky, unpopular hero to triumph over; but not here, in this film's tar pit of juvenile nihilism and depressingly defeatist view of teen sexuality. To make matters worse, the actors playing these two, Eric Christian Olsen (Sunshine Cleaning) and Nicholas D'Agosto (Rocket Science) are 31 and 28 years old, respectively, in real life.  

To combat their shocking unlikability, Fired Up! allows them a split personality: They'll go through the motions of a Bring It On knockoff, then chant lines from Bring It On like a mantra. They fall in requisite love (or maybe "like" is closer to the truth) with the boring female supporting characters, then point out just how requisite it is. In other words, director Will Gluck is the teacher willing to overlook their back-of-the-class, snarky commentary as long as they hand in their assignments on time.  

It's a strange choice, but it worked for me. Any film that chooses, I can only assume, a little-watched TV show - in this case, the buddy comedy Psych - as a framing device through which to view the Fellini-on-Viagra surrealism of a modern-day cheerleading training camp is at least worth a look, though only in specific circumstances; by which I mean stoned at midnight.

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