11 September 2011 | StevePulaski
Was hoping for a wet hot discovering summer
Wet Hot American Summer is the kind of movie where you either get it or you don't. If you do, you're good. If you don't, you are the red-headed step child among your friends and are subject to ridicule because you didn't laugh all that much. I have to say I'm in that category, but I appreciated what the film was doing. It was trying to be a different movie for a certain crowd. It succeeds in being different, but not much else.
I think that this film is appreciated by people who also worship The Big Lebowski and the new comedy Our Idiot Brother, also starring Paul Rudd. They have a certain quotable reputation and are filled with so many random and oddball scenes that they soon get the cult classic status. I did like The Big Lebowski, but didn't see much hope in a rewatch because of the humor only being truly hilarious one time around. Some have said that Wet Hot American Summer gets better with repeated viewings. I don't think I'll stick around to find out.
The story is just thrown together with odds, ends, and characters. Everything is thrown against the wall and the characters wander aimlessly throughout the camp hoping to be hit on the end with some comical elements. We're at Camp Firewood, a Jewish summer camp, and this is the last day of the summer. Everyone is scrambling to find someone of the opposite sex, or same sex, to be with so they can share a kiss at the end of the summer talent show.
The characters are has shallow as the no diving end at a pool. We have Beth (Garofalo), the camp director. Henry (Pierce), an astrophysicist. Coop (Showalter) who has a crush on Katie (Moreau), but unfortunately for him, Katie's boyfriend is the ungrateful, incompetent, ignoramus Andy (Rudd). Gene (Meloni), the Vietnam vet. And way more.
Director David Wain is known for his odd style as he's written and directed Cartoon Network shows like Children's Hospital and Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job. So he does tackle a semi-original idea here. Too bad it's gone to waste. There's one scene where two boys discover their best friend is gay, and rather than taking it in a mature manner, writer Michael Showalter seems to be laughing while writing making the scene unnecessary and tasteless.
For some reason, I've never liked the idea of a summer camp setting in a comedy. It's rarely taken in a fresh manner, and it always results in the same jokes again and again. Some horror movies, like Friday the 13th work because they are in a camp, at night, giving a creepy vibe to an already uneasy setting. In comedies that use the setting, it seems that every film is just random antics, with no rhyme or reason, filled with incompetent camp counselors and teenagers fueled by raging hormones and immaturity.
The characters are drawn and made to be likable, but they are nothing but walking mannequins motivated by personal satisfaction, lust, ego, and hormones. Many of us are, but it rarely do these things make a good, likable film. If the film had been more about finding your inner self and more a coming of age story rather than just be a comedy run by the characters' ridiculous antics it probably could've been more inspiring and more entertaining.
The acting and directing doesn't kill the film has much as the events and characters do. Wet Hot American Summer isn't horrible, but it's repetitive and predictable. What I found wrong may be what someone else finds perfectly fine. The legion of fans will have to accept my review and move on. For every one person who doesn't like this there are half a dozen more who do.
Starring: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Michael Showalter. Directed by: David Wain.