Combustible Celluloid
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With: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Michael Showalter, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Zak Orth, A. D. Miles
Written by: Michael Showalter, David Wain
Directed by: David Wain
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language and a drug sequence
Running Time: 97
Date: 07/27/2001

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Camp It Up

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Recently, Richard Linklater's excellent new Everybody Wants Some!! — which is set in the last days of the summer of 1980 — opened in theaters, and many people compared it to Wet Hot American Summer (2001), which takes place on the last day of summer camp, 1981. Linklater's movie is far better, but this one is just silly enough to have become a cult classic on its own. Not to mention that virtually everyone in it has gone on to stardom.

Wet Hot is set up as a kind of spoof of summer camp movies like Meatballs, wherein counselors try to sleep with one another, and sometimes help out the more socially awkward kids, all in the name of a feel-good ending.

Paul Rudd is the cocky jerk Andy, who gets all the ladies he wants, but doesn't wish to be suffocated (his love affairs generally last an afternoon). Ken Marino pretends he's a stud, but he's really a virgin; Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper are in charge of theater; Molly Shannon moans about her divorce to some kids; and head counselor Janeane Garofalo nurses a crush on scientist David Hyde Pierce. Michael Showalter has two roles, as a sci-fi nerd and (in age makeup) as terrible comedian Alan Shemper.

Weirdly, Netflix rolled the dice on a 2015 TV series, a prequel set on the first day of camp in the same year, casting the same actors, who were now 15 years older. The show slyly acknowledged the forty-somethings playing decades-younger characters and joked about it. But the film remains the favorite.

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