“Hey, let's all promise that in ten years from today, we'll meet again, and we'll see what kind of people we've blossomed into.”
Its been almost 15 years since David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer was released and I honestly had never heard of it. This was Wain’s first feature film but it bombed at the box office and wasn’t warmly received by critics either. Somehow over time it has become a cult teen comedy thanks to its wonderful cast, and now Netflix is about to release a comedy series with the same cast in the form of a prequel. The series will revolve around the first day of Summer camp in Camp Firewood in 1981, while this film focuses on the last day. The comedy plays out as a satire of camp films from the 80’s and it honestly feels like a movie made in that period. The actors wear tight shirts, colorful short shorts, and long white tube socks with eighties hair styles. The look and style of the film itself is worth a couple of laughs and Wain’s love and homage for these campy films transcends the screen. Unfortunately I didn’t find much else worth recommending other than a couple of hilarious scenes, but as a whole I found the absurdist humor a bit lame. This is a very different comedy than what we are used to seeing and it’s hard to point out any other film that has a similar style. That is why I believe it has become such a beloved cult comedy. Wet Hot American Summer is a parody in which you have no idea what direction the story is going to go and it constantly shifts its tone and introduces plenty of twists. Even though this film is basically a satire of camp films it doesn’t miss the opportunity at gleefully playing with familiar genre conventions such as teen rom-coms and sport cliches. These individual scenes work extremely well but they don’t make up a whole movie. That is why despite not being a fan of this film, I’m looking forward to the Netflix series because in shorter segments this could work well and the characters are worth revisiting.
On the final day of Summer Camp there is still so much things to look forward to such as the camp director, Beth (Janeane Garofalo), falling for an astrophysics professor played by David Hyde Pierce. There is also a romantic triangle formed between camp counselors Coop (Michael Showalter), Katie (Marguerite Moreau), and Andy (Paul Rudd). Katie is worried about Coop not having hooked up with anyone during the Summer and she promises to help him find someone special for him before the end of the day. What she doesn’t know is that Coop is in love with her, but she is currently dating Andy. Andy however doesn’t seem to care too much for her since he cheats on her with Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks). Susie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) are focused on directing a musical for the talent show later that night, while Gail (Molly Shannon) is struggling to teach her arts and crafts class because her husband has recently left her. Victor (Ken Marino) and Neil (Joe Lo Truglio) are in charge of taking another group of kids water rafting, but Victor is eager to get back to camp so he can make out with Abby (Marisa Ryan). This is just a small sample of the many activities that are taking place on this final day with plenty of surprises and twists along the way, including an innocent escape into the city by a group of counselors that degenerates into something crazy and unexpected.
David Wain’s most successful film to date is probably Role Models, but Wet Hot American Summer has been growing on people ever since. Paul Rudd has collaborated with Wain in all his films and here he plays a cocky and egocentric character to perfection. There isn’t one main character, although if I was forced to pick one I’d say it is Michael Showalter’s Coop which isn’t really a surprise considering Michael co-wrote the screenplay with Wain. There are also some funny scenes involving the chef played by Christopher Meloni who is still suffering post traumatic stress disorder from the Vietnam War. The cast is fantastic here but there are so many characters that they don’t actually get much screen time. Bradley Cooper is now an Oscar nominated actor, but this was his first film so he doesn’t get much screen time. Marguerite Moreau was fantastic as well and it’s a shame she hasn’t really had much success after this. I recognized her from The Mighty Ducks franchise and it was fun to see her in a different role like this. The performances from this recognizable cast is probably the highlight of the film, but there are also several individual scenes that stand out such as the trip to the city and a hilarious motorcycle chase sequence.