One of the best gags in Wet Hot American Summer is having the twenty and (some) thirty somethings play teenage summer camp counselors. One big problem? Not making the gag clear until the end of the movie. It would have gotten a lot more mileage throughout.
Summer goes out on an awkward note–almost an homage to “M*A*S*H”, which is cute (director Wain loves the eighties homages) but it can’t disguise the lack of an ending. There’s no great finish; instead, there’s a weak exit for erstwhile protagonist Michael Showalter. He’s not the most compelling part of the film, though he’s a fine enough (erstwhile) protagonist, and Wain needs a stronger closer.
Showalter’s story arc involves lusting after Marguerite Moreau and trying to win her from her dolt of a boyfriend (an awful Paul Rudd). It’s nothing compared to Ken Marino’s crazy wilderness trek to meet up with a girl or Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce saving the camp from a falling piece of Skylab.
Other great little arcs include Molly Shannon’s divorcée getting life coaching from her charges and a camper “running” a radio station.
Moreau is okay. She’s better without Showalter or Rudd. Garofalo and Hyde Pierce are both excellent. Their skill works a little against Summer‘s absurdist nature, however. It’s just not as funny when it’s so well-acted.
Marino’s great, so are Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler. Christopher Meloni’s fantastic as the deranged cook.
Summer isn’t completely successful, but it’s close enough.
Directed by David Wain; written by Michael Showalter and Wain; director of photography, Ben Weinstein; edited by Meg Reticker; music by Theodore Shapiro and Craig Wedren; production designer, Mark White; produced by Howard Bernstein; released by USA Films.
Starring Janeane Garofalo (Beth), David Hyde Pierce (Henry Newman), Michael Showalter (Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg), Marguerite Moreau (Katie), Michael Ian Black (McKinley), Zak Orth (J.J.), A.D. Miles (Gary), Paul Rudd (Andy), Christopher Meloni (Gene), Molly Shannon (Gail von Kleinenstein), Ken Marino (Victor Kulak), Joe Lo Truglio (Neil), Amy Poehler (Susie), Bradley Cooper (Ben), Gideon Jacobs (Aaron), Liam Norton (Arty ‘The Beekeeper’ Solomon), Marisa Ryan (Abby Bernstein), Elizabeth Banks (Lindsay), Gabriel Millman (Caped Boy), Kevin Sussman (Steve), Kevin Thomas Conroy (Mork Guy), Christopher Cusumano (Medieval Kid), Cassidy Ladden (Mallrat Girl), Madeline Blue (Cure Girl), Nina Hellman (Nancy), Peter Salett (Guitar Dude), Judah Friedlander (Ron von Kleinenstein), Jacob Shoesmith-Fox (Bert ‘Moose’ Flugelman) and Michael Showalter (Alan Shemper).
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