Film Review – Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Title – Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Director – David Wain (A Futile and Stupid Gesture)

Cast – Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Joe Lo Truglio, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks

Plot – Set during the last day of a summer camp at Camp Firewood in 1981, as a bunch of loved up counselors and hyperactive kids prepare for their big talent night and farewell.  

“I hope it’s not jumbo shrimp, because I’m allergic to oxymoron’s!”

Review by Eddie on 15/07/2019

Put simply, upon release in 2001, Wet Hot American Summer was a disaster.

Ignored by most critics, failing dismally at the box office and genuinely disappearing from many peoples radars, David Wain’s 80’s spoof comedy seemed like just another low-brow comedy destined for an unmemorable life, until low and behold, the cult circuit took over and Summer has become somewhat of a classic.

Spawning a prequel and sequel series on streaming kingpin Netflix, Summer’s reputation has grown over recent years thanks to the airplay its received from people’s lounge-rooms and for the fact Wain’s film is a hotbed of early career activity for some Hollywood’s biggest players.

Early career turns from the likes of Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino as well as extended parts from established stars Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Meloni and Molly Shannon, Summer has one of the early 2000’s greatest ensemble casts that helps make watching Summer in today’s climate a genuine blast no matter what flaws the films has.

As a film, there’s a lot wrong with Summer, it has a bare bones story cut straight out of the Richard Linklater rule-book (think Dazed and Confused and Everybody Wants Some!! with less nuance) and a fair chunk of jokes fall relatively flat but thanks to its carefree charm and the natural charisma of its cast, much of Summer is an easy to digest joy.

The dark sense of humor of Wain such as drowning children, crazed Vietnam war veterans with odd fetishes and a continual gag about a particularly long day timed with a frequent clock also help make Summer a black comedic delight, a comedy not afraid to go to some dark places even if its relatively non-existent story doesn’t bother to delve deep into much else around its low-brow antics and end of summer camp activities such as a talent show or an odd game of capture the flag.

The haphazard nature of the film and oddball happenings are the likely reason Summer has managed to overcome its early failures to achieve a long-lasting success and while it’s by no means a cinematic masterpiece, it’s hard to see how one wouldn’t enjoy their time in Camp Firewood with a crazy collection of flawed yet lovable counselors.

Final Say –

A time-capsule of early career moments for a raft of well-liked stars and an entertaining throwback to the heyday of raunchy 80’s comedies, Wet Hot American Summer is far from a masterpiece but a thoroughly fun and frivolous one of a kind romp regardless.

3 cans of mixed vegetables out of 5

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