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Wet Hot American Summer
by Marcy Dermansky

Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce, looking like dorks

Most of the time, I forget that I ever went to camp. Summers don’t really exist anymore, at least not in New York City where there are no readily accessible lakes or swimming pools, and the office calls me five days a week. But before I hit adolescence and turned shy, five summers running, camp was my favorite place in the world. It was the place where I’d go to be as bad as I could be. I’d meet up with my real best friends (who were far superior to the neighborhood friends), get kicked out of the dining center, drive my counselors crazy. I loved camp.

The setting of Wet Hot American Summer, a liberal, Jewish summer camp in the summer of 1981, with its crowded cabins, art classes, piddling lake, talentless talents shows, and mornings around the flag pole is the real thing. World Film Guide Jurgen Fauth, whose family actually took their kids on real summer vacations, didn’t quite get it.

Summer camp movies as a genre are good things. Tatum O’Neil and Kristi McNichols' contest to lose their virginity in Little Foxes is a classic, as is Bill Murray in Meatballs. Give me a camp movie over a dinosaur picture or a loveable alien every time.

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Set on the last day of camp, Wet Hot American Summer follows a group of counselors who are each trying to complete their unfinished business (sexual intercourse, naturally) before the day ends. Janeane Garofalo plays the camp director who must keep order while she is falling in love with a local astrophysics expert, Associate Professor Neuman (David Hyde Pierce), who in turn is trying to save the camp from a deadly falling satellite.

The film is an over-the-top farce, and the story, to tell the truth, goes a little far. By the end of the film, I’d had enough. Wet Hot American Summer is certainly not a memorable film -- but so what? When the jokes work, they really work. My favorite moments involve the deranged Vietnam vet/camp chef (Christopher Meloni), who talks to a can of beans, and an innocent trip to town that goes out of control.

Wet Hot American Summer was conceived by Michael Showalter and David Wain of MTV's cult sketch comedy group The State. I don’t have cable and haven’t seen the show, but if you are fond of it you might like to know that most of the camp counselors hail from MTV.

I never paid much attention to my counselors when I was at camp. They were older, adults, boring. If they were getting laid or stopping killer asteroids, I had no idea.


Director: David Wain

Cast: Janeane Garofalo (Beth), David Hyde Pierce (Professor Neumann), Paul Rudd (Andy), Molly Shannon (Gail), Michael Showalter (Coop), Michael Ian Black (McKinley), Kerri Kenney (Paco's Wife), Joe Lo Truglio (Neil), Ken Marino (Victor), Christopher Meloni (Gene), Marguerite Moreau (Katie)

MPAA Rating: R
Distributor: USA Films

 

 

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