Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Rates: * * * *

Why Did I Watch It? Widely liked modern comedy that I had not seen.

Cast, crew, etc.


It’s the last day of summer camp and a lot is happening. The flaky councillors are trying to sort out their messy love lives, while the flaky kids are mostly doing the same. There’s a talent show, an ill fated rafting trip, a frustrated scientist trying to get tenure, a weird kid who behaves like a robot, and falling ‘Skylab’ debris: I mean, a LOT is happening.

Director David Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter have channeled their own summer camp experiences, by way of ‘Meatballs’ (and countless other summer camp flicks), and infused it with some of the zany anarchy of ‘Airplane’. While the film starts off as a fairly conventional comedy, as it progresses it gets looser, and wilder, and funnier. Some of my favourite bits came when the film pushes its humour out to the edge: the drowned river rafter that just gets dumped out of the van, the weird kid’s CRAZY talent show entry (which riffs on ‘Carrie’), the talent show audience’s aggressive rejection of the one good act. The best gags in this, are truly inspired.

The film features an amazingly deep cast. Janene Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce are a neurotic pairing made in movie heaven (I especially loved Garofalo getting fashion/style tips from another councillor), and their edging towards each other is the right level of cute. And then there is quite an array of up-and-comers: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Bradley Coops (in his first film), Molly Shannon, Judah Friedlander, and ‘Brooklyn 99’s Joe Lo Truglio, who has a very funny, borderline surreal, chase sequence with one of the other councillors (where he is foiled by a random, stray hay bale). ‘Law and Order’s Christopher Meloni is also hysterical, as the camp’s burned out cook, who makes friends with a can of mixed vegetables.

I have heard, and read, this film being talked up, and I can see why it is fave for people. Stacked with likable characters and great performances, and a bombardment of hilarious jokes: an absolute winner. A lot of re-watch value, and the perfect, cheering thing for these unsettling times.

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