Movie: "Wet Hot American Summer"
Year: 2001
Rated: R
Genre: Comedy
Directed by: David Wain
Writing credits: David Wain, Michael Showalter

Reviewer: Max Burbank
Posted: 3/27/2008

Plot: Itís the last day of the summer at Camp Firewood, and everybody there has to accomplish whatever they most want before the buses leave in the morning. Meanwhile, a neighbor astrophysicist and the science geek kids discover a chunk of Skylab is hurtling straight toward camp.

Review: When this film came out in 2001, it was critically hailed by some (Entertainment Weekly) panned by others (Fatboy Ebert, forgetting he once wrote ĎFaster Pussycatí dismissed it utterly) and almost ignored at the box office which is a damn shame since itís frigginí brilliant. Itís popularity has been growing ever since, a sort of Star Trek of comedy films.

Sometimes seen as a parody of the summer camp movie genre, thatís an idea that does the film a serious disservice. Anyone who ever attended or worked at a largely Jewish sort of arty sleepaway camp (and you might be surprised at just how many they are) will recognize that this film is no spoof or parody of anything. It is an observation of the actual camp experience.

Showalter and Wainís brilliance is to have the movie take place over a single 24-hour period. Every trope of camp life is compressed to fit into that one last day. Itís a common observation among former campers and counselors, that the short four to eight week session seems impossibly long. Among adults, serious pairing off and huge romantic soap operas may even begin in the week before the kids arrive. By squeezing what out to be lengthy story lines into their essential moments, having them play out not through short scenes that represent moments in time and have them taking place instead in two or three consecutive lines, the bizarre time compression of summer camp is communicated to the audience. Itís visibly unreasonable, and bizarre in ways you only see in real life once the summer is over.

In addition, the movie features some truly brilliant comic turns. Head counselor Janeane Garofalo catches cute, immature counselor Paul Rudd leaving garbage on the dining room floor and demands he pick it up. Rudd initially refuses and then turns the act of pouting and flouncing while complying into something bordering on ballet. I donít mean he dances, I mean it is an absolutely epic embodiment of being a spoiled shithead, stretched like taffy and expanded like a Peep in a microwave. Itís the platonic ideal of petty adolescence.

Yes, the movie is spotty at points, a byproduct of being shot with very little money over a twenty-eight day period. Somehow, though, even the spottiness charms me. You are watching absolutely brilliant comedians work. Itís raw and some of the edges need sanding, but that very fact invites you into the process.

Student of comedy or just consumer, if you havenít seen this movie I hope Iíve made it clear I think you need to.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Fookin' up planets!
Mar 28th, 2008, 09:39 AM
I LOVE "Wet Hot American Summer"....
My wife HATES "Wet Hot American Summer"....
But she couldn't see the brilliance of "Stella" either. But she did enjoy "The State".
I think it's just impossible not to laugh at this movie at least a few times with this many funny and talented people crammed into one film. Like the "Three Amigo's"!
Man I dig those "Quotation Marks".
Mar 28th, 2008, 10:30 AM
This movie is worth watching just to see the hard ass detective from Law and Order: SVU humping a refrigerator.
Forum Virgin
Mar 28th, 2008, 01:01 PM
"Finish them Tater Tots. I'm gonna go fondle my sweaters."

Why is this movie so goddamn hard to track down!?
Pickled Patriarch
Mar 28th, 2008, 02:07 PM
A truly great flick! Whether it's teaching "the new way" or talking to a can of mixed vegetables, Gene (Christopher Meloni) steals every scene in this movie. I wish he would do more comedic work like this. Also, it's worth watching to see David Hyde Pierce get pissed at himself and exclaim, "oh fuck my cock!"
Mar 28th, 2008, 06:42 PM
The "Grande Finale" to the softball game is amazing. Just kinda wowed me. Also "Secret handshake? Secret handshake."
Crazed Techno-Biologist
Mar 29th, 2008, 01:47 AM
when it comes to those expanding peeps, we play "Peep joust."
we stick a toothpick into the front of each of two peeps.
we make them face eachother and microwave em.
the one who's peep stabs the tohers first wins.
he then eats both peeps quickly before they get hard as rock
and careul not to swallow a burnt toothpick.
Mar 29th, 2008, 08:48 PM
I never knew this film came out in 2001, I always figured it came out in the 90's. Man, I suck.
Forum Virgin
Mar 31st, 2008, 01:06 PM
I was thrilled to see Comedy Central dust off this forgotten movie for a brief run. Pure gold.

You know where the powder packets are?
Forum Virgin
Apr 3rd, 2008, 05:40 PM
must find download....A legal once of course >.<
Forum Virgin
Jun 17th, 2008, 04:31 PM
David Wain has a web series, Wainy Days, now and it's pretty funny.
I mean, it's not wet hot of course, but Elizabeth Banks is in the first episode.
It's hosted by a site www.mydamnchannel.com which also has a show by A.D. Miles, who is Gary.

Season Three just started. Here's a link...
Forum Virgin
Aug 5th, 2008, 01:48 AM
If my sister saw this review, she would love you. I didn't worship it as much as she does, but it's quite a good movie.
Forum Virgin
Nov 24th, 2009, 05:11 PM
I watched it on comedy central a coupla times, and thought it was kinda quirky, but when I found the unedited version for cheap and bought it, it quickly has become one of my favorites. Check it out on imdb, and you won't believe how many cast members have become comedy staples/stars.

I love when they boo the girls after the music number at the talent show.