BWW Recap: Taking it Higher and Higher, WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER

The year was 2001 in the small town of Waterville, Maine. It was the last day of camp at Camp Firewood. Despite the campers happiness and well, safety, the counselors were determined to have a great night even if an object falling from space threatened to doom them all.

WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER was released in July, 2001. David Wain and Michael Showalter, alumni of MTV's THE STATE and STELLA sketch shows, penned this camp comedy filled with up and coming comedy stars. Don't get me wrong, cult classic or not, this warped comedy is not for everybody. It has some dirty moments so maybe don't suggest it for family movie night.

The basic plot summary boils down to Coop (Michael Showalter) who's madly in love with Katie (Marguerite Moreau), who's dating the obnoxious and disinterested, Andy (Paul Rudd), who's cheating on her with Lindsay,(Elizabeth Banks). Camp Director Beth (Janeane Garofalo) is flirting with Henry (David Hyde Pierce), whose home happens to be on the campground (?), Victor (Ken Marino) is forced into an overnight camping trip with Neil (Joe Lo Truglio) and a bunch of campers when he finally gets the chance to lose his virginity to Abby, Gary (A.D. Miles) is trying to lie low in the kitchen from the Head Chef and unhinged, Gene (Christopher Meloni), and Gail (Molly Shannon), is falling apart after her recent divorce and her only counsel resides in the young campers. Lastly, in the theatre department, Susie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) are trying to put together one last musical number for the talent show that night, but Ben is distracted by his steamy and secret love affair with McKinley (Michael Ian Black). Oh and there's also that pesky threat of a piece of Space Lab about to collide with Earth that puts it all into perspective as they all try to survive the last day of camp. Can Henry and his group of "Indoor Kids" deflect the debris so that it doesn't kill them all?

Sound absurd? It absolutely is, unapologetically. Spoofing a number of 1980's camp movies such as MEATBALLS, SLEEPAWAY CAMP and LITTLE DARLINGS, this all star ensemble features performers who, with the exception of a very few, were relatively unknown at the time. As one may imagine, it wasn't a critical darling and took in less than $300,000.00 initially at the box office. However, over the years it has become a cult classic. The film pokes fun at many camp movie stereotypes. There's the kid who won't take a shower (we all knew one), the weird kid that can't make friends and suddenly becomes popular at the end, the momentous sports speech that must inspire the team to beat the rich, rival camp, the hookups, the bikinis, the short shorts and, of course, the slow clap. Favorite moments are hard to narrow down, but it's hard to ignore Christopher Meloni in a role unlike any he had ever done up to this point. Two words: refrigerator humping. We can't forget the explicit love scene between Black and Cooper, the over the top and unnecessary chase scene between Lo Truglio and Marino and the epic trip into town, just to name a few. But for me, personally, the entire film is worth it, if only, for Paul Rudd. Andy is that guy that we all know. That obnoxious, disgusting and devastatingly handsome guy that all the girls seem to love no matter how horrible he treats them. Mr. Rudd is frighteningly accurate in his portrayal and I stand firm on the opinion that this is his best role to date. From his classic food picking up scene in the cafeteria to his glorious double take to Coop at the talent show, in a cast full of comedy genius, Rudd steals the show. #therudd

I happen to have a personal, vested interest in this film. Why? Well, Waterville, Maine is actually Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of yours truly. Honesdale is a town North of the Pocono Mountains which is surrounded by summer camps. One of those camps, Camp Towanda, was the location for Camp Firewood. During the Spring of 2000, filming lasted 28 days and according to Director, David Wain, "It rained on all of them." If you look closely, you can see the ground constantly covered in mud and the cast even walking on boards at times to avoid it. And that scene where they get high in the park? I danced in a recital there every summer until I was 18. Yes, these are the kind of fascinating, behind the scenes details, I am able to provide. You're welcome.

Poehler, Moreau and Garofolo
Honesdale, Pennsylvania Central Park as shown in film above.

Now, with 6 all new episodes, this prequel is about the first day of camp. How did they all meet? How were these relationships and friendships formed? I guess we will find out tomorrow. Not only did the majority of the cast return to their roles, they also added Jason Schwartzman, H. Jon Benjamin, John Slattery, Michaela Watkins, Lake Bell, Richard Schiff, David Wain, Rob Huebel, Jordan Peele, Paul Scheer, Jayma Mays, Josh Charles, Rich Sommer, Weird Al Yankovic, Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, Randall Park, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig just to name a few.

Ridiculous, isn't it? I expect with will be very American, very hot and extra... nevermind.

Here is the trailer for the new Netflix series prequel:

WET, HOT, AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY OF CAMP premieres Friday, July 31st on Netflix.

Photo Credits: USA Films, Moosic Mountain Wild

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From This Author Jennifer McHugh

TV and Film Freelancer, Jennifer, received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Kutztown State University in Pennsylvania. Jennifer works for a Cosmetics Company in Los (read more...)

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