With the upcoming prequel Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp releasing on Netflix July 31st, it’s only fitting to review the cult classic that started it all. Wet Hot American Summer is a comedy that plays on youth and the stupidity that surrounds it. The film is set in 1981, when the last day of summer camp has arrived at Camp Firewood. With only hours left in the day, the story follows several characters as they look for love, recognition or a meaningful purpose in the world.
When the film began, my initial thought was that it was poorly made, as repetitive sound effects, terrible acting and unfunny jokes filled the first 10 minutes. But then I realized that the film was actually a spoof. This realization changed my opinion of the film, as it became really enjoyable. There are some downright hilarious moments that’ll bring tears to your eyes, although the comedy begins to fall flat towards the end of the second act. The late 90’s and early 2000’s were the transition period of parodies, where they became less funny and more moronic. Although the humor is stupid at times, the genius writing in the first act saves the film from being a complete mess.
As far as the acting, the cast does an excellent job of convincing the audience that these “teens” are as foolish as they are made out to be. This is thanks to the amazing cast, which includes Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, David Hyde Pierce and many more. It’s evident that this film didn’t skyrocket their careers, but it did put them on the map as they have become some of the most working actors in Hollywood. Just about every actor plays an exaggerated version of their typical typecast role, which works for the film.
The most shocking casting choice of all has to be Christopher Meloni as Gene the chef.Gene, a veteran of the Vietnam War, is on the brink of insanity and thus a constant source of red flags for other counselors. This role is so entertaining because it is the complete opposite to Meloni’s normal line of work. He literally communicates to a talking can of mixed vegetables.
One of my favorite side stories of the film is that of Gaile Von Kleinenstein (Molly Shannon). Going through a divorce, Kleinenstein breaks down during her arts and crafts class to leave her students without a teacher. Rather than being quiet, the kids begin to comfort her as marriage counselors. The child actors did a great job of showing maturity to a crazy woman, which makes it all the more funny.
The ludicrousness of the plot is fun just to think of. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the actors broke character, as some of the scenes are just plain ridiculous. Paul Rudd definitely overacts the bad boy image, but that’s the beauty of it. One would think having several kids die on his watch would be terrible, but Rudd’s couldn’t-care-less attitude produces pure dark bliss. Wet Hot American Summer plays off the cliches of genres such as romantic comedies to spin them around in a way never done before.
If you can get past the overplayed parody elements, you’ll find a film that has dark humor, charm and heart. The film isn’t for everyone, but it is a cult classic to be celebrated for years to come. With almost the entire cast coming back for the Netflix series, many fans are excited as it promises to be true to the original.