If someone ever tries to tell you dumb does not equal funny, kindly point that person in the direction of Wet Hot American Summer.
Most of the time, he or she may be right, but when it’s in the hands of Michael Showalter and David Wain, dumb will most likely leave you doubled over with laughter. Such is the case in Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, the latest installment in the saga chronicling the lives of the junior counselors at the fictional Camp Firewood.
This time around, Coop (Showalter), J.J. (Zak Orth), Katie (Marguerite Moreau), Andy (Paul Rudd), McKinley (Michael Ian Black), Ben (Adam Scott), Susie (Amy Poehler), Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks), Victor (Ken Marino) and the rest of the gang (the list of names can go on forever) return to the place of their summer bliss in 1991, spurred by a promise to come back 10 years after their final summer there. On arrival, they find a camp that’s in the middle of a major change, as camp director Beth (Janeane Garafalo) is getting ready to sell Firewood. An era is coming to an end.
What hasn’t changed, though, is Wet Hot American Summer’s absurd, dumb, irreverent sense of humor. Amid a pretty good send up of the romantic comedies and reunion movies of the 1990s are plenty of jokes about sex, bodily functions and the fact that the characters are in a TV show. If you’re worried that the series is growing up along with its characters, fear not.
While the sex and fart jokes are plentiful, almost to the point of self parody at this point, it’s the meta-jokes and sight gags that remain Wet Hot American Summer’s bread and butter. Two characters who weren’t in the original movie are superimposed into flashback footage, as though they’d been there the whole time. References to ‘storylines’ and ‘episodes’ abound, and characters are called by the names of the actors playing them. In a cameo, David Hyde Pierce returns as Professor Henry Neumann, via Skype, in Pierce’s home office, surrounded by the Emmys he won playing Niles on Frasier.
I’m afraid to say too much more, lest I give away too many jokes. If you’re a fan of the original movie and the prequel series (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp), rest assured, creators Showalter and Wain found plenty of hilarious material to mine in their 3rd trip to Camp Firewood.
If you’re new to the series, go back and watch the original and the prequel first. My only complaint lies in the story’s scope. As the characters have aged, new threads have been created. A bizarre subplot about Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush trying to destroy the camp gets almost too bats— to be brought down to Earth. I will note, however, that the show knows it, and skewers itself accordingly. Still, you’ll enjoy this film more if you’ve seen what’s come before.
OVERALL SCORE – 7/10
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is a delight, and it’s obvious that its creators and stars still find joy in acting like a bunch of immature teenagers (or 20-somethings) even though many are pushing 50. In an era where you’d expect actors so established in other worlds to have moved on, it’s impressive to see them commit wholeheartedly to something so ridiculous.
+ The jokes. The jokes. The jokes. The jokes. I’m still giggling now. It’s starting to annoy my wife.
+ The cast. It’s amazing that a group of actors that has gotten so famous since the first movie can return and still embrace the absurdity of the original project.
– The scope of the story. 10 Years Later tries to do too much. If the series continues, a return to the day-to-day of the camp will make for a tighter, better show.
You like Wet Hot American Summer? What did you think? Leave a comment below.
Trey Wydysh’s time at summer camp was nothing to write home about. He spent most of his time noodling on a guitar and listening to Pink Floyd with his counselors. He also got food poisoning after an ill-advised ‘Leftover Taco Tuesday’ at the camp mess hall. You can follow Trey on Twitter @TreyWydysh
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