“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp”
So I’m one of those people who did NOT love the original film from 2001. For whatever reason (and I’ve watched it three times), it never landed for me. The idea always seemed better than the execution. And I think I always resented the cult following it had…I’ll admit it, I felt left out…and since I couldn’t figure out WHY it had a cult following, I started to think of it as something people dug because it was hip to dig it (even if they didn’t really get it). I mean, I GET the parody, I remember the flicks it lampooned very well, but it just missed in a way that, say, “The Way Way Back” didn’t. Granted, one was a sappy flick that hearkened to a bygone era of film-making and the other was ultra silly and hearkened to a bygone era of film-making. So I wasn’t really expecting to love the new series…
…but, I did, and I do. The show takes place on the first day of camp…a month before the original movie takes place (in 1981)…with the same actors, playing the same characters from the movie (shot in 2001) a full fourteen years later in real time. It’s as if Mad Magazine decided to remake “Boyhood” as a farce. There’s no real reason to critique the story, because it’s utterly insane, while concurrently true to its “ABC After-School Special” roots. The acting is joyful…especially Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd and John Slattery (as a lecherous Broadway veteran, come to mentor the theater kids). Co-Creator, Michael Showalter, as the head counselor, nails the earnest and lovable angst of trying to lead youngsters, while simultaneously navigating post-pubescent love. And David Wain, Showalter’s creative partner, is simply hilarious as an Israeli soccer coach. Even when things go completely haywire in the story (in ways that make “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World” seem like a pleasant RomCom), the actors remain fully committed.
Listen, it’s not the greatest show ever, or the funniest. But if you are of a certain age, was raised anywhere on the middle class suburban spectrum, and went to camp as a teen, then you’ll eat this up. And if you aren’t and didn’t…then Slattery alone is worth the time commitment. I was a counselor at a Jewish Camp in 1981. And while that actuality wasn’t enough for me to get the movie, it made the series come to life, vividly so – with equal parts sweetness, absurdity and wit.
Watch this trailer and you’ll be hooked. (NSFW, btw)