Friday, 28 September 2018

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Fired Up! (Will Gluck, 2009)

When their irascible coach tries to foil their libidos by moving football camp into the middle of nowhere, two hot-shot jocks (Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen) decide to leave the ball behind and join the cheerleader squad.

Hi-jinx ensue...

The effort this movie goes to be funny, sexy, heartfelt and relevant is jaw-dropping. Released at the beginning of 2009, it feels like a movie from 1999, even down to the theme song by blink-182 front man Mark Hoppus. The fact that director Will Gluck also made Easy A as his next movie (released the following year!) blows my mind. This movie bombed on release and somehow he managed to escape.

I usually find bad comedies a chore, but there is something weirdly hypnotic about this movie's focus on delivering unfunny material from set up to punchline.

I heard this movie was shot to be an R, and was hacked to pieces - somehow, I cannot see that making it better. The premise is so odious, it is hard to latch onto them as sympathetic protagonists. Nicholas D'Agosto is suddenly turned into a puppy dog, just so he can come across well to the female lead.

The sad thing about the movie is the obvious effort everybody is making to make it funny, which makes it so fascinating to watch.

I counted one joke that actually worked: during an outdoor screening of Bring It On, the camera pans across the cheerleaders' dazed faces as they repeat every line of dialogue in unison. It is legitimately funny, but conversely adds to the film's subtext that women are inferior beings compared with our dude-bro heroes.

D'Agosto and Olsen do have some chemistry together, but they come off as both too soft to convince as star athletes and too abrasive to come across as sympathetic romantic leads. They feel like secondary villains. 

Olsen is basically playing a variation of his character in Not Another Teen Movie, except he is meant to be the good guy; d'Agosto's character is a least given a sliver of a redemptive arc - it is not earned or crafted that well, but the idea of a character learning... something is there. Olsen's character gets even less to work with - he appears to be rehabilitated through proximity to D'Agosto.

 As previously stated, there is a layer of misogyny to this 'comedy' that the filmmakers seem either ignorant of, or too afraid to acknowledge. The key subplot is d'Agosto's relationship with Sarah Roemer's head cheerleader Carly. Initially presented as a smart, mature woman who immediately know what our 'heroes' are up to, her character is never consistent - when the movie needs an obstacle for the boyz? Carly. Love interest? Carly. Prick boyfriend serving as a secondary antagonist to boost our heroes' virtue? You get the idea.

The lesbian subplot is creepy as hell. One of the cheerleaders (Margo Harshman) has a crush on another (Hayley Marie Norman), who seems to have no clue of her teammate's attraction. On the face of it, this could be mined for comedy. But the way her attraction is portrayed feels like a fantasy that the main characters would dream up - Angela (Norman) wakes up to find Sylvia (Harshman) has snuck into her bed and has wrapped herself around her. The non-consensual touching continues through the rest of the movie.

It is uncomfortable for a couple of reasons - Norman's cluelessness and lack of agency about her body is problematic enough, but the portrayal of a LGBT+ character as a predator who is not concerned about groping her roommate without consent. This subplot is also introduced about 20 minutes before the end of the movie - it just comes off as a really bizarre attempt at a joke.

I could go on, but really there is not much more to it. If you want too study a time capsule of teen comedy cliches way past their use-by date, check out Fired Up!

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