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  Wet Hot American Summer Camp It Up
Year: 2001
Director: David Wain
Stars: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Marguerite Moreau, Michael Ian Black, Zak Orth, A.D. Miles, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Gideon Jacobs
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1981, it's August, and the last day of the holidays at Camp Firewood. The kids get up and start running around aimlessly while the head councellor Beth (Janeane Garofalo) mildly tells them to behave while she sips from her coffee mug. As it's the final day, the announcer over the tannoy tells everyone that if they haven't had their summer romance yet, then they'd better hurry up, as time is running out. And no-one knows this better than Coop (Michael Showalter) who is in love with Katie (Marguerite Moreau) but only able to admire her from afar, as she is the girlfriend of fellow councellor Andy (Paul Rudd), who she isn't aware has a roving eye when it comes to the opposite sex. Nevertheless, Katie has a short conversation with Coop, the longest time he has ever spoken to her, and he now has hope it may lead to something better. He's not the only one with romance on his mind, as Beth meets a local professor, Henry (David Hyde Pierce)...

Few would claim the nineteen-eighties summer camp genre as the very pinnacle of cinematic achievement, and as they were supposedly comedies in the first place, albeit largely lame ones, you wouldn't have thought there would be much to parody, at least not successfully. However, Wet Hot American Summer was here to prove you wrong, devised by scriptwriters Showalter and director David Wain, with the help of some of the cast of their cult TV sketch show The State - Wain, Showalter and cast member Michael Ian Black would go on to create the cancelled but equally cult Stella. Here they invented a surefire way of wringing laughs from the genre, although at first it seems like business as usual.

There's all the stuff you'd expect to see in the first half hour, with the actors playing the teenage councelors plainly overage (I'd like to think this was a casting decision nod to the glory days of summer camp films), only it's slightly hysterically pitched: when Beth suggests to Henry that he could hold a science class for the "indoor" kids, he barks a furious "NO!", for instance. He changes his mind, however, and the camp splits up into groups for music, swimming and sports, among other things, but it begins to look a little too much like kooky comic mundanity. Then something becomes apparent: all the people in the film are actually insane.

Andy allows one kid to drive around the lake in a speedboat on his own because he'd rather canoodle with a fellow councellor (not Katie), then when the kid disappears beneath the water, Andy takes his "swimming buddy" and dumps him by the side of the road to cover up the incident. Victor (Ken Marino), who would like to think of himself as the camp stud, confesses he's a virgin and runs all the way back from a rafting outing (after crashing the van) for the chance of his first sexual experience with the resident nymphomaniac, meaning his colleague has to chase him on a motorbike (he doesn't catch him) leaving the kids in the raft to ride to certain doom. And to top it all, the science class realises a piece of Skylab is due to land on the lot of them - what to do? Rich in ludicrous scenes, Wet Hot American Summer turns all the cliché on its head, ending up ten times funnier than Meatballs or any other example of these films. After a slow start, this transforms into a real gem of genuinely hilarious daftness. Music by Theodore Shapiro and Craig Wedren. Keep watching the credits.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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