Movie: "Wet Hot American Summer"
Directed by: David Wain
Writing credits: David Wain, Michael Showalter
Reviewer: Max Burbank
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.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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