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Wet Hot American Summer
cast: Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, and David Hyde Pierce

director: David Wain

97 minutes (R) 2001 widescreen ratio 1.85:1
UMVD NTSC DVD Region 1 rental / retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Noell Wolfgram Evans
Every now and then a movie comes out on a Friday and then seems to disappear on Saturday after some beatings by the critics. It's as if the movie is ashamed by what it is and, like Lori Singer in Footloose, runs back to the safety of Daddy without taking its chance. Admittedly, some of these movies deserve to be buried while the rest are really just misunderstood. Wet Hot American Summer is one of these misunderstood gems.

Released in 2001 this movie flew under the radar of most people who assumed with that title that it must be some sort of soft corn porn flick or a grade-Z pile of junk. As all good cult films do though, the movie is finding a second life on video, DVD, cable and even through some revivals and forward thinking movie theatres. The people who are discovering it see it in one of two ways: to some this is a movie that's so dumb it's good, to others it's a cleverly tuned satire. Anyway you look at it it's funny.

Wet Hot American Summer is set in 1981 and deals with the experiences of the last day of summer camp. Did you go to camp? Did you not? The movie actually doesn't really care; you don't need those experiences to relate to any of the action that takes place. And as for that time period, it doesn't matter if you were graduating high school in the 1980s or not yet born. The movie doesn't look back on that time period with any sort of nostalgia, it uses its setting instead to generate some 'look at this goofy thing they used to do' sort of fun.

As you might suspect the film follows a number of campers, counsellors, workers and guides as they try to finish up the business of summer before camp ends. There are all of the stock stereotypical situations but they're turned enough on the side to be something completely new. The scene with camp head Janeane Garofalo screaming in the doctor's office should put an end to every panic scene of that type for the next 10 years. There are tons of stock absurd situations (the meteor coming close to Earth and a talent-less talent show) but there are also a few really true moments and the film should get extra marks for the way that it handles the relationship between two of the characters who happen to be gay.

The cast of the film is more than up for the odd skew of the film. They look like they're having a ton of fun and really invite you to come along with them for the ride. The movie stars among others, Garofalo, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Meloni - as a cook with an unhealthy love for a can of vegetables, and a number of members of the comedy group The State.

The most important thing that you can do with this movie is to just enjoy it. This is the type of movie where it's not important how a counsellor gets off of a riverboat in the middle of the river, but that he's now on a motorcycle looking for the girl of his dreams while the campers in that riverboat float screamingly toward a waterfall. What's important is that it's happening.

Remember you can be out with your friends and having a great time, laughing all night long when suddenly someone makes milk come out their nose and this odd moment becomes the funniest thing ever. Wet Hot American Summer is filled with odd moments that will make the milk flow freely.
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