Few things invoke the nostalgia of summer like going to summer camp. Whether your parents packed you up and shipped you away or if you only got to live vicariously through television and movies, summer camp remains one of the icons of American childhood. Wet Hot American Summer takes this charming piece of childhood and turns it into an absurd, satirical comedy wonderland. Being the end of summer, we are going to review the original film along with its prequel and sequel series that are much more recent and on Netflix.
The original movie was a bit of a flop, but has developed as cult following in recent years, which shouldn’t be a surprise. The cast is packed with stars just on the cusp of fame: Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, H. Jon Benjamin, and Elizabeth Banks to name a few.
The film takes place on the last day of camp at Camp Firewood, when the counselors have mentally checked out in favor of embracing their hormones. Our geek protagonist, Coop, hopes to win the heart of his crush Katie, who is currently enthralled with bad boy Andy. To be honest, to tell much more than the very basic elements of the plot would be doing a disservice. The film is just too complex to summarize all of its branching stories, but suffice it to say that this is one of the rare films that does “dumb parody” well.
4.5/5 Stars. Watch it with friends, and send anyone who doesn’t like it on an unsupervised canoe trip.
“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” is a prequel of the film, using the original actors of the movie 14 years after the fact. If you are thinking, “Isn’t it weird to have noticeably older actors play younger versions of themselves that takes place before and already old movie?” the answer is yes, it is. And it is hilarious.
I don’t know that “First Day of Camp” is for everyone. While maintaining a lot of the aesthetics of the original film, the series is much more thematically linked with the last third. This series starts absurd and just keeps going. While it is goofy and fun to guess what crazy thing will happen next, you can definitely notice the absence of the true “camp” feel that the movie had. This series does greatly expand on the film, though. We explore the backgrounds of characters who were more brushed over and even a closer look at the rivals across the lake, Camp Tiger Claw.
3/5 Stars. Fans will really enjoy this series, but I don’t think there is an audience outside of that. Just stay away from the toxic waste.
Finally, we get to “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.” Now in 1991, the crazy counselors from Camp Firewood have returned in their mid-20s. Conspiracies flourish and old enemies return, but I’ve got to say, this series really suffers from the law of diminishing returns.
Plot holes and cast changes really stand out, and even the fourth-wall breaking jokes don’t make them much better. Jokes are split between even dumber versions of old punch lines and witty lines that don’t quite land. The drama in this comedy is pretty contrived. Even the satirical elements are struggling to get laughs. That isn’t to say it is horrible, but compared to what came before it, it just doesn’t live up to what came before it.
2/5 Stars. There are worse things on Netflix, but you may be better off just rewatching the film. Walla-walla-whatever.