Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 11th April 2002
Box Office Worldwide: $295.2 thousand
Distributed by: USA Films
Production compaines: Eureka Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 46
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: David Wain
Producer: Howard Bernstein
Starring: Janeane Garofalo as Beth, David Hyde Pierce as Henry, Marguerite Moreau as Katie, Michael Ian Black as McKinley, Zak Orth as J.J., A.D. Miles as Gary, Paul Rudd as Andy, Christopher Meloni as Gene, Michael Showalter as Coop, Molly Shannon as Gail, Ken Marino as Victor Kulak, Joe Lo Truglio as Neil, Amy Poehler as Susie, Bradley Cooper as Ben, Elizabeth Banks as Lindsay, Marisa Ryan as Abby
But there is hope at your local video store -- Wet Hot American Summer, a hysterical spoof on 1980s pop culture featuring several members of The State, the sketch comedy troupe which had its own, brilliant MTV show in the mid-1990s. (Note to younger readers: That was before Cribs and The Real World were run in a continuous loop.)
Set in August 1981, Summer takes us to the final day at a summer camp where an assortment of characters try to get some order in their lives before everyone departs. The most prominent storylines feature the camp's director (Janeane Garofalo) trying to win the attention of a nerdy college professor (David Hyde Pierce), and a nice guy (movie co-writer Michael Showalter) seeking the attention of his fellow camp counselor (Marguerite Moreau).
Wet Hot American Summer is one of the rare movies of 2001 where describing the plot simply won't correlate to what's on screen. Showalter and director and co-writer David Wain don't spoof any one movie in particular, but they revel in the absurdities of the horrible sitcoms, teen movies, and Afterschool Specials of their youth. Ever notice how old Hollywood's teenagers are? Well, the obviously twentysomething Moreau plays a 16-year-old. Did you ever notice how many inspirational dance numbers/exercise scenes were in 1980s movies? Wain and Showalter sure have, and their take on it is the funniest thing I've seen in a while.
By expanding their satiric vision, Wain and Showalter never make you feel like you're watching a regurgitation of certain movies (a mistake made repeatedly in the dreadful Not Another Teen Movie). At the same time, Wet Hot American Summer has an endearing sense of familiarity, making it very easy to relate to all of the characters.
It's especially helpful that the acting is great all around, especially from Garofalo and Pierce. After being labeled since the Bronze Age (Garofalo as the elder spokeswoman for aloof Generation X cool; Pierce as "Niles on Frasier"), it's almost shocking to see them play regular people. However, I use "regular" very loosely. Showalter, with a terrible, shaggy haircut and shy demeanor, is perfect as the aforementioned "nice guy." He seems to know that he's doomed to fail, and to the movie's credit, he does. Rudd is fantastic as the prototypical jerk boyfriend. He should get a patent on his sigh. Molly Shannon scores in her supporting role as a sunny arts teacher in a personal crisis, who gets help from an unlikely source.
Wet Hot American Summer was not a gigantic hit last summer, but I think it's a movie audiences will discover and rediscover on video and cable for years. Despite its attachment to the 1980s, the movie has a timeless sense of humor, which you don't see very often these days. If ever a movie was destined for Dazed and Confused or Caddyshack status, Wet Hot American Summer is an obvious choice.