Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You taste like a burger. I don't like you anymore.

Don't tell my wife, but I was a camp counselor one summer. Wait, she knows that already. But what she doesn't know, that toward the end of camp, I was invited to an end of summer party, by a very attractive (and seemingly slutty) female counselor. When I told her thanks, but no thanks she stared at me insisting that I should make an appearance, and that it would be a real good time. Perhaps she had just fallen on her seventeen year-old head and was incapable of rational thought, but there was no f--king way I was going to her party. I was too old for that scene, in fact, too old to be working at a f--king camp in the first place.

I was 25.

Speaking of too f--king old to work at a camp, let's talk about Wet Hot American Summer, shall we? Set in 1981 (but filmed in 2001) this camp-movie satire is loaded with famous faces, all playing far below their age at the time. And while having actors in their twenties and thirties playing high school kids may seem like goofy fun, like the rest of the flick, the results are more strange than funny. 

The plot, if such a word applies, concerns the last full day of summer camp. That night, the end-of-summer talent show will be held and both campers and counselors are feeling the pressure. Not about the show, silly, but everyone is making a last-ditch attempt at summer love. For campers, that might mean a first kiss, a slow dance or possibly a hand up a shirt. But for the counselors, it's all about getting laid. Again.

If you were a camper or counselor yourself, this film, seen now, might be ninety minutes of absurd nostalgia. But if your parents actually wanted you around in July and August, you might want to set your tent elsewhere. For the most part, I thought this movie was an unburied turd too close to the campfire. Funny for a minute, but ultimately a drag to my entire evening.

Salvaging how f--king weird and random (and at times, painfully unfunny) the whole affair is, would be an incredible cast. Loaded with comedic talent, the film plays out like a bizarro live-action Where's Waldo? (and entertains just as long) flick. Instead of an outdoor market, or the beach, this time you're frantically searching a camp in upstate Maine to find the familiar faces.

I think I missed 'naked wrestle your best friend' day at our camp.
Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce get top billing, but the secondary cast are the real stars. We've got a surprisingly gay Bradley Cooper and a surprisingly bitter Amy Poehler as the drama club Nazis. Paul Rudd plays the handsome idiot, Andy. Elizabeth Banks shows up as a younger, sluttier counselor, which isn't a bad thing. Even the voice of Archer, Jon Benjamin makes an appearance, lending his talents to...a talking can. Of mixed vegetables. Marginally better than that, most of The State shows up, too, making sure not five minutes pass without something completely ridiculous unfolding in front of us.

While it may sound worth checking out (and it has a fairly strong cult-following), I couldn't get into the movie at all. Sure, there are some inspired bits, but seeing it for the first time thirteen years after the fact, no less, simply did nothing for me. One of my best friends swears by this movie, but he used to run a camp, so this shit is right in this wheelhouse. You and me? We're better than this. Well...at least you are. I'm sure of it.

But what neither of us are better than, are the Yays and Boos. As awkward as working at a camp with a bunch of horny high-schoolers was, everything was redeemed the final day when we played a massive game of capture the flag. Few events in my life that don't feature nudity or the Red Sox (or both) are outright Yays, but seeing hundreds of campers descending onto the pitch that day, adorned in the colors of the four Harry Potter houses certainly qualifies. Oh, camp.

I think my older brothers not only had these clothes, but also the haircuts.
And the faces.

  • We weren't an overnight camp, so I can't speak to it, but it was funny to see all the boys running back to their cabins in the morning.
  • Michael Showalter. This guy. I'm Doug. And you're Dad...
  • The only thing better than Ken Marino in a half-shirt, is Ken Marino scratching his balls in a half-shirt. Sweet fro, by the way.
  • While, I love Rudd, his character Andy kind of sucks. But, his little tantrum about cleaning up? Hysterical.
  • Katie, the hot one (played Marguerite Moreau). Her little speech at the end was classic.
  • The randomness isn't all bad. The camp's nurse needs something from town. Okay, fine. What is it? Nancy: I need lube. For my p---y. Oh, okay.
  • Speaking of going into town, that might have been the most epic hour ever.
  • That motorcycle chase? Not sure why, but I loved it.
  • My two favorite lines: It's just barbecue sauce, with I will not 'f--k off' a close second.
  • Nothing is better than making fun of eighties montages. Here, we get the having a good time montage and the quintessential training montage, both of which are very well done.
  • Poehler saying that her drama students suck dick still makes me laugh.
  • And finally, I read that they might be making a prequel to this one. Even though I'm down on the first one, it seems like the right kind of ridiculous. It's set six months earlier, but the entire cast is ten years older. Brilliant.
  • Christopher Meloni. Look, I love this guy, but his whole angle was just bad. Not even good-bad. Just, I-want-to-kill-your-face bad.
  • Molly Shannon. Maybe her story made me smile once, but it just dragged on. And on. And ol' Magic Fingers creeped me out.
  • Ah yes, eighties attire. Sure, it's worn for comedic effect, but nut huggers and half-shirts ain't that funny. I'm also a fan of bras, oddly enough. 
  • Maybe I'm mistaken, but did I just watch a movie about camp-counselors that was titty-free?
  • Humping the fridge. That scene was painful. In fact, the only reason I typed those three words was a desperate attempt at bringing in some um...exotic site traffic.
  • Alan Shepherd and his lame stand up routine. I get that that's the joke, but it seemed like it would never end.
  • Judah Friedlander. Not even sure why I'm booing him...
  • Remember how awkward that final dance scene in Little Miss Sunshine was? The end of the talent show is kind of like that. Except less heart-warming, more soul-crushing.
  • David Hyde Pierce and his whole arc was incredibly stupid. Seems like his character should have been played by Lt. Dangle himself, Thomas Lennon. Probably would have been funnier (not that that's saying much).
  • And finally, even though it's over a decade later, it really seems like this flick is a giant missed opportunity. There's always next summer, I suppose.
While I don't regret skipping that party, I might ultimately regret the ninety-seven minutes I spent with Wet Hot American Summer. The whole experience is like watching home movies from junior high. Sure, it's fun to see everyone so young and dumb, but only for a few minutes. Then, like camp itself, it gets real awkward and drags to its painful conclusion.  When something was supposed to be funny but ends up the opposite, there's only one thing left to say: Guess you had to be there.

Same goes for stories about camp.


  1. "It was the first day of the third week in August" says everything, I think. Though I'd still read the review for the "And finally, I read that they might be making a prequel to this one. Even though I'm down on the first one, it seems like the right kind of ridiculous. It's set six months earlier, but the entire cast is ten years older. Brilliant" film. ;)

    1. According to the, um, internet, they really are making a sequel, and hope to have everyone back. While I thought that was a bad idea initially, if they really do a prequel...I'm with it. Not sure they can squeeze a feature out of something so absurd, but feel oddly supportive of the attempt.

  2. BAHAHA, when is Bradley Cooper ever surprisingly gay? It is so hard for him to play straight it's painful to watch him on screen :-P

    1. Oh, c'mon. I like Cooper. He was f--king awesome in Silver Linings Playbook.

      But I guess he's no Russell Crowe, huh?

  3. How could you?!! I'm guessing you aren't big on absurd humor? I love David Wain's (and by extension Michael Ian Black & Michael Showalter) brand of humor. I fucking loved the show Stella. I've thought WHAS was hysterical since I was in middle school. We finally disagree on something!

    1. Jess. Jesssss. I'm all about absurd humor. When it's funny. I grew up watching shitty VHS tapes of The State religiously, but I still couldn't get into this movie.

      You saw this in middle school? MIDDLE SCHOOL. This mofo came out after my graduation. From college.. Now that's f--king absurd.

      That said, f--k yeah to polite disagreement!

    2. Haha you don't look a day over 16! Actually... I can't tell, your avatar is quite small.

    3. That's by design, the small picture.

      That, combined with the fact that I'm so old I really don't understand this 'computer' thing I, um,. 'blog' on. Whatever those mean.

  4. I'm going to go fondle my sweaters.

  5. Thank you for this. I was beginning to think I was the only one who didn't like this movie.

    1. No, no. Thank you. Apparently it's just you and me that missed the boat on this one...

  6. I've never heard about that movie, I really like Banks and Rudd but I think I'm gonna pass. Anything involving humping the fridge probably wouldn't make me laugh. Unless it also involved Hill or Rogen.

    1. Banks is a non-factor, it's just fun to see her so young (and dumb) and Rudd has a few moments of greatness, but otherwise is a useless jerk.

      You're absolutely right about fridge humping. Unless it's a very attractive woman, humping an extremely small fridge, it's simply not funny. In any circumstance. Oh, and Hill and Rogen are standing next to her. Well, across the room...next to her.

  7. I saw this during this weekend and granted I was really drunk but hell, I found it funny! Very atmopsheric too - you really felt like during summer camp watching this, I can see how it's a classic. Really looking forward to the show, I think it drops this week!