The poster for Fired Up! emphasizes the letters "F" and "U," as if it were almost, but not quite brave enough to do something dirty. It's ostensibly a movie about two horny teenage high school football players (played by thirty year-olds) who sneak into cheerleader camp to get laid. It sounds like it could be a kind of Porky's and Meatballs sandwich. But the PG-13 rating that's required to lure in horny teenage boys prevents the characters from saying or doing anything dirty, like taking off too many clothes or having sex (in fact, there's arguably more male flesh on display here than female flesh). And so instead of sneaking, the boys have to pretend that they're on the team. And thus all the jokes, and the plot, go about halfway, then pull back in shame -- unless they're gay jokes, in which case anything goes. (Strange hypocrisy, that.)

Only Eric Christian Olsen as football captain Nick has enough of a carefree attitude to lighten things up; he's the one that makes a funny face or a snarky comment anytime anyone says or does anything stupid -- which is nearly all the time -- but even he can't save the entire film. His pal is sensitive Shawn (Nicholas D'Agosto), who has the misfortune to fall in love with his teammate Carly (Sarah Roemer), thereby losing interest in his mission. He can't have Carly because 1) he has lied to her about his reason for sneaking into cheerleading camp, and 2) she has an obnoxious boyfriend, a med student called Dr. Rick (David Walton) who sings along with Chumbawumba in his convertible BMW ("it's like the soundtrack to my life!"). Carly is also the only woman smart enough not to fall for the duo's seductive sweet-talk ("I don't usually open up like this") but she's even dumber than all the rest of the women, since she has fallen for Dr. Rick's annoying shtick.


The third act, of course, is the cheerleading competition, which is mostly dull. There's a spectacular, contest-winning move called the "Fountain of Troy," which has been forbidden in the first act, so we know that the heroes will use it. I'm not sure just how spectacular it was, though, because TV writer/producer Will Gluck, who makes his directorial debut here, kept cutting away to shots of the judges looking awestruck. I was also irritated because the cheerleaders kept talking to one another onstage during their performance, although my irritation was briefly lifted by Nick's comment: "I'm new at this, but should there be this much talking?"

John Michael Higgins appears as the idiot adult character (see Eugene Levy in the American Pie films) and Philip Baker Hall is on hand to say the "sh--" word as often as possible without ruining the rating. And Shawn has a little sister called Poppy (Juliette Goglia) who can get anything for anybody, like Clint Howard's character in Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979). She has the second foulest mouth in the movie because, isn't it cute when a pre-teen uses bad language?

In reality, this movie is all about what the MPAA finds acceptable and what they don't. Basically, anything resembling actual human behavior or human sexuality is out. Bad language is OK as long as it's not the f-word and as long as the character saying it is a "type" and not a real character. I can only assume that all the talk about gay/lesbian sex and sexuality -- including all the jokey, cutesy male nudity -- is OK, because the MPAA considers it "silly" and not "real." (One gay character flaunts his nudity and everyone looks away.) So basically, Fired Up! is afraid of crossing certain lines, and flagrantly, cluelessly crosses others. It's all just pathologically absurd.

But perhaps the worst crime of all is the need for "redemption" in these characters, who very simply are a lot more fun when they're scoundrels. (See Hugh Grant in About a Boy for a prime example.) Why can't someone make a movie about a scoundrel who stays a scoundrel? Honestly, what's wrong with scoundrels? It's not like we're going to be hanging out with them after the movie, allowing them to corrupt us. But the MPAA believes that every single character in every single movie has to be a role model. During days of the grindhouse, cheerleaders did two things; they took off their clothes and they got into catfights. No one cared about the big competition; there wasn't one. Football players grew beards, used bad language, smoked and drank. No one was redeemed, and everything was a lot more fun.