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Beware of hidden gems

IT would be news if "Fired Up!?weren't moronic and adolescent. A comedy about two horny high school football players who infiltrate cheerleading camp to score women couldn't possibly be anything else.

It's also ?as you would imagine ?rude and crude, until it reaches its predictable and disingenuously sweet conclusion.

What's surprising, though, is that within this premise lies a streak of giddy humor that makes the whole endeavor more tolerable than it ought to be.

As best friends and teammates, Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen aren't your typical dumb jocks.

They're quick-witted and verbal, and the way they bounce off each other with rat-a-tat dialogue that often gives "Fired Up!?an engaging energy.

The script, credited to the enigmatic Freedom Jones, is crammed with pop-culture references you might not expect but it also feels a little too self-consciously clever in that now-familiar Diablo Cody vein.

In his feature debut, longtime TV writer and producer Will Gluck directs these hijinks in spectacularly unremarkable fashion, but even he couldn't screw up the comic talents of John Michael Higgins as the cheer camp's overzealous Coach Keith, "the skipper of this spirit ship.?

Edie McClurg and Philip Baker Hall show up in brief, ho-hum supporting parts, with ?0210?star AnnaLynne McCord snarling and glaring her way through her role as the camp's obligatory head mean girl.

It is vaguely amusing, though, that the members of her Panthers squad follow her around everywhere in a rigid V-formation with deadly looks on their faces.

The Panthers are the top cheerleading team every year, while the Tigers of Gerald R. Ford High School, where quarterback Nick (Olsen) and wide receiver Shawn (D'Agosto) play, are the perennial cellar dwellers. Team captain Carly (Sarah Roemer) reluctantly lets the guys tag along to cheer camp, figuring it'll improve their performance to add a little muscle.

After bulldozing their way through a dizzying number of girls in record time, sweet-talking Shawn finds himself falling for Carly because she's the one girl who's too smart to succumb to his come-ons.

Nick, meanwhile, is wowed by Coach Keith's inordinately hot wife, Diora (beautiful, stiff Molly Sims), even though she's ancient. Like, 30.

But first, Shawn must get through Carly's smarmy, scheming boyfriend, a pre-med student who likes to call himself Dr Rick (David Walton) and who blares hideous 1990s pop songs like "Tubthumping?from his convertible BMW each time he pulls up to cheer camp. ("Chumbawamba,?he declares. "The soundtrack to my life!? The running gag is usually pretty good for a laugh.

So are scenes like the one in which the cheerleaders watch "Bring It On?en masse, and recite every line along with it.

"Fired Up!?isn't a cheerocracy, but it's not total anarchy, either.


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