Many of you saw and loved director Will Gluck’s Easy A last year. And who could blame you, it was fast quips and very smart, with a star making performance by Emma Stone. With his next film Friends with Benefits days away from debuting, I want to look back to his first directing effort. A film that was overlooked by audiences and mismanaged by the studio that requested it.
Fired Up! stars Erik Christian Olsen (Not Another Teen Movie) and Nicolas D’Agosto (Rocket Science) as Nick and Shawn, two football jocks who spend their free time chasing girls all over Gerald R. Ford High School. One night, Nick has an idea that would greatly increase the amount of ladies they could bag. Instead of football camp in the unrelenting heat of El Paso, they would attend cheerleading camp with Carly (Disturbia‘s Sarah Roemer) and the high school’s squad. After convincing everyone except Carly, they join the girls and head to cheer camp. What ensues is a raunchy (quite raunchy for PG-13) teen comedy as the boys bag all the girls and experience the camp from an outsider’s perspective.
The film features colorful minor characters that keep the comedy from stalling even at the end. From Dr. Rick, the pre-med douchebag, to Sylvia, the girl that says whatever she’s thinking, each role fleshes out the cheer camp world. All aspects are represented, leaving nothing on the cutting room floor.
The biggest scene stealer is John Michael Higgins, a veteran of the Christopher Guest style of comedy. His Coach Keith is a man of unfettered energy. When he speaks, it’s a hilarious quote. From his misspelling of fired up to his birthing story, Coach Keith has enough jokes to make a spin-off a sound idea.
Fired Up! came out in February 2009, a time when studios are dumping their excess inventory hoping something sticks. So far that year, Taken and Paul Blart: Mall Cop were the only things that were generating a lot of business. Friday the 13th would debut strong and fall hard the second weekend while He’s Just Not That Into You continued its slow climb to sleeper hit status. Opening opposite Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, Fired Up! was doomed from the start. It didn’t help that critics hated the movie. It came and went from theaters quietly without much notice.
Despite its lack of profitability, Fired Up! is one of the best comedies of 2009. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience it in the theaters. I stumbled upon it at a video store one night when I was hanging with my sister. When we were done, we were both pleasantly surprised. It has gone on to be one of the movies we quote to each other on a regular basis.
It wasn’t a successful movie, but looking at it you understand where Gluck discovered his pacing and comedic timing for the characters. Written by Freedom Jones, a pseudonym since no one really stepped up to taking credit for it (and many writers took a crack at the screenplay), the film had difficulty being released. It had to be submitted 18 times to get its PG-13 rating; most films resubmit less half that many times if they resubmit at all. Seeing the unrated version on DVD and/or Blu-ray, you can see just what was bugging the MPAA.
Though it isn’t one of my top ten favorite comedies, it’s in my top 20. It is a terribly funny movie that I love to watch over and over again. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys their teen comedies a tad more raunchy than run-of-the-mill. 4 stars out of 5.