Wet Hot American Summer

2001, Movie, R, 97 mins

Review

WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER
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A deadpan send-up of '70s and '80s summer-camp movies, co-written by Michael Showalter and David Wain, of MTV's short-lived sketch comedy troupe The State, and directed by Wain. The conceit: All the wacky hijinks and intrigues that would normally unfold over the course of an entire summer are packed into a single day — the last before the campers and counselors of Waterville, Maine's Camp Firewood return home.

Nerdy counselor Coop (Showalter) has his eye on sexy Katie (Marguerite Moreau), the kind of girl for whom Daisy Dukes were made. But Katie is dating studly Andy (Paul Rudd), a lifeguard who doesn't care if campers drown on his watch. Meanwhile, hippie camp director Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has fallen for dorky astrophysicist Henry (David Hyde Pierce, of TV's Frasier) and is desperately soliciting advice on acting girlie. Newly divorced counselor Gail (SNL alumna Molly Shannon) is having a nervous breakdown in arts and crafts class and camp cook Gene (Christopher Meloni, of TV's Oz and Special Victims Unit), a freaked out Vietnam vet, is taking wiggy orders from a talking can of mixed vegetables. Victor (Ken Marino), stuck taking a bunch of kids on a camping trip, is desperate to get back to camp in time to make it with slutty Abby (Marisa Ryan, of TV's New York Undercover), and high-strung Susie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) are trying to put together a number from Godspell for the campers' talent show. There's a big softball game scheduled with a rival camp, the staff all take a trip to town and become junkies, and — unbeknownst to anyone but Henry — a piece of Skylab is about to come crashing down on them unless he and the geek kids can jerryrig a guidance system to divert it.

The film is essentially a series of blackout sketches in which Wain and Showalter seem to have been aiming for a kind of absurdist exaggeration of the already preposterous clichés of summer camp movies, but most of the scenes fall flatter than a lead soufflé, and the film's sight gags — Andy dumping campers' bodies by the roadside, Gene humping the refrigerator — are outrageous without actually being funny. Kudos, though, to the set and costume designers: The hideous fashions of 1981 are flawlessly reproduced, and the period details are exactly right, down to the jar of sun tea brewing on the porch. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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From Universal Studios (DVD)
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Buy New: $9.14 (as of 11/27/14 6:29 PM EST - more info)

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