Review: Fired Up

If the sorry state of Hollywood comedy could use a boost from a pep squad, it's let down by the droopy "Fired Up!," in which a pair of high school football-playing lotharios man up for the cheerleading team. The guys view the cheerleading field as new sexual turf to plow -- and plow they do -- but the pic is just a sad, cheapo bid to be the "Bring It On" of the '00s. Opening weekend will stick the landing with target teen and college crowds, with overtime action in vid.

Deep in southeastern Illinois, which suspiciously looks a lot like the Southern California suburbs, Shawn (Nicholas D'Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) are inseparable buddies and the go-to offensive combo for the Gerald Ford High School Tigers' varsity football team, led by beyond-foul-mouthed Coach Byrnes (Philip Baker Hall, in an embarrassing role). Byrnes utters "shit" so many times in one minute that Shawn and Nick actually keep count, making one wonder what the MPAA's quota for a PG-13 rating actually is.

Looking dimly on the prospect of summer football camp in sizzling El Paso, Texas, and bored with the local babes, the pair overhear the Tiger cheerleaders -- captained by Carly (Sarah Roemer) -- strategizing for their own summer camp's competitive tourney; the guys figure they'll try out and bag some new hotties. With their verbal skills and supreme grasp of science, along with a knack for the right seductive tone, Shawn and Nick are ESPN-ized versions of Valmont from "Les Liaisons dangereuses" mixed with Hope and Crosby.

The moment Carly (rightly) suspects these dudes' intentions, it's as clear as a ref's flag that Shawn will conquer her in the end. Of course, there are obstacles along the way, starting with Carly's current, obnoxious (is there any other kind?) beau, self-named Dr. Rick (the unfunny David Walton); followed by a nasty rival cheer squad (and perennial champs) the Panthers, dressed in black and led by snarly Gwyneth (AnnaLynne McCord), who's determined to keep the customarily cellar-dwelling Tigers in their place.

In a sign that Shawn and Nick can have their way with any woman -- within 24 hours after arriving at camp, they have sex with at least a dozen -- Nick even manages to seduce thirtysomething camp co-head Diora (Molly Sims), married to heavily closeted Coach Keith (played by John Michael Higgins with his characteristically ironic vigor). Pic's sideline action involving several gay and lesbian students and teachers is out for all to see, a sign of greater sexual openness for a mainstream teen comedy.

Nevertheless, "Fired Up!" settles for being little more than a rehash of formulas with nothing to pep things up. A scene in which the camp teams watch an alfresco screening of "Bring It On" gives the game away and incorrectly assumes that the earlier cheerleading comedy is universally considered a classic.

D'Agosto and Olsen pump up Freedom Jones' lame script with a verbal rat-a-tat-tat, call-and-response energy that gives off the impression of being at least partly improvised. Roemer survives with her dignity intact, while petite, smart-mouthed Juliette Goglia works to steal her scenes.

Director Will Gluck gets a possessory credit, even though the film's production standard is the impersonally bland, glossy norm for studio comedies.

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