It’s too bad that some marketing drone decided that “Fired Up” needed to be a PG-13 movie; the comedy about tail-chasing football players going to cheerleading camp has a wonderfully rude sense of humor, and an R rating might have allowed it be something of a high-school classic.
Even neutered, however, “Fired Up” delivers consistent laughs, and it treats its female characters (and even its gay ones) with enough dignity that you won’t hate yourself in the morning.
Shawn (Nicholas D’Agosto of “Rocket Science”) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen, “Dumb and Dumberer”) are Gerald R. Ford High School football stars who spend all of their time off the field — and even most of their time on it — putting the make on hot young honeys. They’re slated to go off to summer football camp, but when they realize that cheerleading camp will afford them the opportunity of being surrounded by sexy girls from other schools, they trade the flea-flicker for the shoulder stand.
Even though cheerleading squad captain Carly (Sarah Roemer, “Disturbia”) remains suspicious of the boys’ intentions, she nonetheless welcomes a little male assistance at cheerleading camp, where the Ford Tigers are stomped every year by the obnoxious, co-ed Panthers, led by the snotty Gwyneth (AnnaLynne McCord).
“Fired Up” doesn’t really subvert the genre — we know that Shawn and Nick are eventually going to become committed to cheering, and that Shawn will turn his back on playing the field for a chance at love with Carly. Still, director Will Gluck and writer Freedom Jones, both making their feature film debuts, never let the momentum flag. From the fast-paced, deadpan delivery of D’Agosto and Olsen — suggesting “Gilmore Girls” by way of bawdy yet droll 1980s comedies like “Bachelor Party” and “Up the Creek” — to a gaggle of hilarious second bananas, “Fired Up” never dwells so long on a single joke or plot point as to become tiresome.
Standouts among the aforementioned second bananas include Adhir Kalyan as a type-A gay cheerleader and David Walton as Dr. Rick, Carly’s oily boyfriend. We know the latter is bad news because a) he calls himself “Dr. Rick” despite being a pre-med frosh; b) he’s cheating on Carly; and c) his car stereo is always blasting awful one-hit wonder songs from the ’90s.
Hollywood has churned out any number of smart-alecks-get-laid comedies in the 30-plus years since “Animal House,” but if “Fired Up” is any indication, these movies no longer have to be homophobic and/or misogynist. The gay characters are never the butt of jokes, and the women, in addition to being really good at cheerleading, are presented as being willing and eager to be seduced rather than being dumb bimbos who get fooled into sleeping with the heroes.
But if you’re going to make a sex farce about teen lotharios scoring with nubile cheerleaders, you’d might as well go all the way and go for the R rating, even if it means losing the “Bring It On” audience. (That movie, incidentally, gets a very funny shout-out here.) The whole unrated-DVD phenomenon usually feels like a gimmick, but I’ll be interested to see what an unexpurgated “Fired Up” would have looked like.