Easy A a teen sex comedy with no actual sex aims rather conspicuously to plumb the best bits of Diablo Cody and Alexander Payne in its upside-down self-consciously campy take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In the role of its high-school Hester Prynne is Emma Stone the sly husky heroine of last year’s surprise hit Zombieland. Tested by a film that is far less clever than its director Will Gluck or screenwriter Bert Royal would have us believe (and they desperately want us to believe) she passes with flying colors delivering a performance that should elevate her into the upper echelon of actresses possessing brains and beauty in equal measure.
Stone plays Olive the kind of quick-witted hyper-literate teen that our educational system produces in ever-diminishing numbers. (If it ever produced them to begin with.) More knowing and sophisticated than others her age she is nonetheless not immune to the pressure of peers and the dread of being labeled a loser. Under duress by a prying friend (Aly Michalka) to dish the details of her birthday weekend a rather mundane affair mainly spent jumping on her bed to the tune of Natasha Bedingfield’s pop monstrosity “Pocket Full of Sunshine ” she feels compelled to embellish a bit and concocts an entirely fictional account of losing her virginity (dubbed the “V-Card” by Royal trying too hard) to a boy from a junior college across town.
Word of Olive’s deflowering spreads with startling speed aided by the incessant rumor-mongering of a catty Evangelical eavesdropper (Amanda Bynes). Suddenly branded a tramp on account of a seemingly harmless little lie Olive opts to embrace her newly tarnished reputation and put it to good use. In a viciously stratified social environment where even the most awkward acne-plagued pariah can earn respect and even admiration from members of the upper castes for having gone All the Way Olive anoints herself the Mother Theresa of (fake) sluts bestowing her blessing upon downtrodden gents in need of a reputation boost. And she resolves to look the part too traipsing around in scandalous bustiers and affixing the letter “A” to her chest.
There are limits to Easy A’s Scarlet Letter conceit overly Glee-ful tone forced repartee and pop-culture references (John Hughes is invoked so many times he should get a producer credit). Which is why director Gluck must be grateful to have found Stone who handles the verbal calisthenics of Royal’s script with charm and verve and a certain effortless appeal that keeps us engaged even as the film wallows in contrived irony and heavy-handedness. Keep your eye on her.
It’s a comic smorgasboard of cineteenmatic influences from Bring It On and Superbad to buddy comedies like Wedding Crashers. Shawn (Nicholas D*Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) are girl-obsessed jocks on the Ford High School football team. They scheme to trade another sweat-induced summer at football camp for a stint at the mostly female cheerleading camp instead. Their insincere motive? Score with the chicks. However their muscular presence begins to turn around the miserable fortunes of this pathetic squad and now with an “S” for Shawn and an “N” for Nick the team has a genuine chance to score for the first time at the cheer competition finals. On top of all this Shawn falls for the team captain. With a fresh and lively cast Fired Up transcends the derivative nature of this kind of teen. Learning everything they know from conniving male screen teams like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson D’Agosto and Olsen may be the best pairing since those two started crashing weddings. Their nonstop rat-a-tat locker room-style patter about girls and sex is delivered with the panache of real comic pros -- especially good is a scene where they must try out their cheer routines for their coach with only a strategically placed pom pom for cover. TV sitcom creator (The Loop) and first-time feature director Will Gluck tends to approach this lightweight material exactly as if he were doing it for the small screen but somehow it works -- with the film’s main attribute being a breezy pace and effortless staging of the cheerleading set pieces. The movie clearly doesn’t take itself seriously even indirectly addressing its Bring It On similarities by having the gang actually watching that movie one night and reciting the dialogue in unison. Funny stuff.