Do you guys remember how 75% of all movies that were shot in the 80’s used Summer camp as the backdrop? No, seriously. From Meatballs to Friday the 13th, seems like Summer camps were just a big deal back then. Easy place to shoot. All at one location. Kind of makes sense to me, yet we see it less and less in modern film. Wet Hot American Summer is a comedy, and an homage to all the great Summer camp movies from that era gone by. On top of being hilarious, there is a cornucopia of amazing super stars in this film who were not quite the super stars they are today. It is amazing to see the buds of their talent taking root in this film. This is Wet Hot American Summer, and I cannot help but wonder why you haven’t seen it. Even if you have, shut up and see it again.
I kind of miss eighties shorts.
Wet Hot American Summer takes place on the last day at a fictional Jewish Summer camp before it closes. Camp Firewood in Maine. The last day before it closes for the season means the last day the counselors can hook up with each other to get some Summer ass, and that is what sets the tone for this voyage. Before I mention anything else, I would like to mention the talent involved with this film. It is written by The State alums, Michael Showalter and David Wain, with Wain also taking up directorial duties. A few other The State alumni show up as well. Michael Ian Black, to name just one. Other incredibly hilarious people who find themselves in this movie are Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, and Paul Rudd (in a role that proved he was destined for comedy super stardom). As well as a plethora of other stars who may surprise you. I don’t want to ruin all the surprises now, though. Aw, screw it! I say I just ruin the entire movie now and stuff a trailer in your face. That seems a rational idea.
So much and many spoilers, I see trailers and often scream: whyyyyyy?
What really stood out to me and the aspect I liked so much about Wet Hot American Summer is just how well it captures the feeling of the very films it is satirizing. Not only that, but if you have ever been to Summer camp, you know how spot on this flick is. The teenage counselors who don’t actually give a shit about the kids because they just want to get high and get laid. The adults who are all a little too square, but overcompensate by trying not to be. Hell, even that one weird cook that seems like he might eat kids who works at every Summer camp is represented here (brilliantly by Christopher Meloni). As you watch the movie, you will find your own brain flooding with a bunch of Summer camp memories your subconscious tried to repress. It is an odd feeling, but for me, was an enjoyable one. Oh, and as much as I have just made it sound like chaos, there is an actual plot here. It’s thin, but it’s here.
The cast is f*cking superb.
I would say the main story line focuses on Coop (Showalter) who has a crush on Katie, but needs to pull her away from her super douche boyfriend, Andy (played masterfully by Rudd). The film revolves around his failed attempts to win her over before the camp closes for the season. I would say the secondary plot revolves around Beth (Janeane Garofalo) doing her damndest to try and win the love of Henry (David Hyde Pierce). Henry is a Astrophysics associate professor at Colby College (a point he likes to remind people of quite often, and a point that seems to moisten Beth up quite a bit) and Beth wants nothing more than to have him inside of her. The best part is, Henry wants this too, and neither is very socially competent. So it leads to quite a few awkward exchanges for the audience to squirm through.
Outside of those plot lines, there are many minor plots about kids and some of the other campers. Molly Shannon has a bit (they completely ruin the punch line of in the trailer) that is particularly funny, if not a bit uncomfortable. That is what Wet Hot American Summer does so well. It has the same humor that you would find in a show like The Office. It knows awkward can be funny, and it plays wonderfully off of that dynamic. Also, kids are a pain in the ass and teenagers are punks, and this movie knows to play off that dynamic as well. Oh, and it has one of my favorite scenes from a comedy movie ever.
The best “well that escalated quickly” scene in a non-Anchorman movie ever.
Keep in mind, I have not even told you about the piece from the N.A.S.A skylab that broke off and may be hurtling right at the camp. I also have refrained from telling you ANYTHING about Michael Ian Black’s story line (because it is hilarious and awesome and handled incredibly well) and how that factors into the film. Hell, I haven’t even mentioned that Bradley Cooper is in this, for crying out loud. Or Joe Lo Truglio. The whole point is this is a fun ride, and I don’t want to ruin that for you by telling you all the things that factor in to make it so great. Trust me, see this movie.
And here they are now. All old and successful.
In closing, I know Wet Hot American Summer has a cult following, but this movie is awesome and deserves real accolades. It captures a time and energy many of us lived through and experienced, and reminds us how silly we looked while doing it. With a killer cast, a great setting, and the sweet taste of nostalgia, there is no reason you shouldn’t be signing up for this Summer camp, right now. Man, I love when I end my articles sounding like a generic news paper movie reviewer.