Film: Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Director: David Wain
Starring: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd
Written by: David Wain, Michael Showalter
With summer coming to a close, it’s time to break out one of the greatest summer camp films of all time. Wet Hot American Summer is an ensemble film to rival all others, with actors from across the wide spectrum of entertainment popping in to crack wise. The majority of these goofballs were spawned from The State, the MTV sketch show which would ultimately be responsible for shows like Viva Variety!, Stella, and Reno 911. Yet there are a few surprises as well. Christopher Meloni from Law and Order: SVU shows up as a crazed cook who gains wisdom from food and talks about enacting all manner of absurdly depraved behavior. Elizabeth Banks was running strong in her blond hussy phase of acting at this point. And Bradley Cooper, star of such bro classics as The Hangover and The A-Team? This was his first movie, and he spent his debut bitching about the camp talent show as well as getting cornholed in a dark shed while wearing tube socks. There’s something wonderfully appropriate about that.
If there is a protagonist in Wet Hot American Summer, it’s Coop, played by writer Michael Showalter. Coop is a bowl-cutted camp counselor who silently lusts after a female buddy, even though she looks like kind of a mongo. Being the last day of camp, he spends his time trying to build up the nerve to hook up with her. The problem is that she’s dating the super-aloof, child killing Paul Rudd, a fellow counselor whose flailing antics and immunity from dignity render him the coolest kid at camp. Even though Rudd’s character is a total man-whore, Coop’s chances of erotic success are slim.
Yet desperate love remains in the air. Pretty much everybody is trying to hook up on this fateful last day, from the little kid who sets his sights on SNL’s Molly Shannon to the horned-up guy sporting short shorts and a permed fro who ditches his campers in whitewater rapids for a shot at love. A couple of geeks find the strength to set their urges aside in order to save the camp from total destruction, but those kids suck.
The final day of camp culminates with Bradley Cooper’s talent show, which is presided over by an old Jewish comedian from the Catskills (also played by Showalter). His old-timey cracks about “awts and fawts and crafts” and being so old that “fucking Jesus Christ was my counselor” put the kids in stitches. Meanwhile, the geeks put their plan into action, a loser powers up, and Coop makes his move.
Ever lingering rumors have it that a sequel to Wet Hot American Summer will one day come. Who knows if it will ever happen, but that day would be awesome.