Wet Hot American Summer

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Wet Hot American Summer
Wet hot american summer.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Wain
Produced by Howard Bernstein
Written by David Wain
Michael Showalter
Starring See Cast
Music by Theodore Shapiro
Craig Wedren
Cinematography Ben Weinstein
Edited by Meg Reticker
Distributed by USA Films
Release dates
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.8 million[1]
Box office $295,206
(United States)[2]

Wet Hot American Summer is a 2001 satirical comedy film directed by David Wain from a screenplay written by David Wain and Michael Showalter, starring Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter (and various other members of MTV's sketch comedy group The State), Marguerite Moreau, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Zak Orth and A.D. Miles. The film takes place during the last day at a fictional Jewish summer camp in 1981, before closing for the summer.

The film was a commercial and critical flop, but has since received a cult following.[3] Netflix will produce an eight-episode prequel in 2015 starring most of the original cast members, including Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and David Hyde-Pierce, among numerous others.


On August 18, 1981, Camp Firewood, a summer camp located near Waterville, Maine, is preparing for its last day of summer camp, which means counselors have one last chance to have a romantic encounter with another person at Camp Firewood. The summer ultimately culminates in a talent show.

Beth (Janeane Garofalo), the camp director, struggles to keep her counselors in order—and her campers alive—while falling in love with Henry (David Hyde Pierce), an astrophysics associate professor at the local college (actually Colby College). Henry has to devise a plan to save the camp from a piece of NASA's Skylab, which is falling to Earth.

Coop (Michael Showalter) has a crush on Katie (Marguerite Moreau), his fellow counselor, but has to pry her away from her rebellious, obnoxious, and obviously unfaithful boyfriend, Andy (Paul Rudd). Only Gene (Christopher Meloni), the shell-shocked Vietnam war veteran and camp chef, can help Coop win Katie—with some help from a talking can of vegetables (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin).

All the while, Gary (A.D. Miles), Gene's unfortunately chosen apprentice, and J.J. (Zak Orth) attempt to figure out why McKinley (Michael Ian Black) hasn't been with a woman; Victor (Ken Marino) attempts to sleep with the resident loose-girl Abby; and Susie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Bradley Cooper) attempt to produce and choreograph the greatest talent show Camp Firewood has ever seen.




The film is based on the experiences Wain had while attending Camp Modin, a Jewish camp, located in Belgrade, Maine, and Showalter had at Camp Mohawk in the Berkshires in Cheshire, Massachusetts.[4] During one scene, the counselors take a trip into Waterville, Maine, which is not far from the camp. It is also a parody of, and homage to, other films about summer camp such as Meatballs (1979) and Indian Summer (1993). According to Wain, they wanted to make a film structured like films such as Nashville, Dazed and Confused and Do the Right Thing—"films that take place in one contained time period that have lots of different characters."[1]


The film's financing took three years to assemble; in a June 2011 interview, Wain revealed the film's budget was $1.8 million; he noted that during the 2001 Sundance Film Festival,[5] the film had been promoted as costing $5 million, in an attempt to attract a better offer from a distributor.[1]


Principal photography lasted 28 days, and it "rained on all of them";[1] Exterior shots were filmed catch-as-catch can, and, in many interior scenes, rain seen outside turns into sun as soon as characters step outside. The actors' breath can be seen in most outdoor scenes,[1] and even in some indoor ones because of the cold. The film was shot at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, Pennsylvania[6] and is rated R for adult humor, language, and sexual content.


As the film is set in the early 1980s, the film's soundtrack features songs from many popular bands of the era, most notably Jefferson Starship, Rick Springfield, Loverboy, and KISS.


Wet Hot American Summer premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, where it was screened four times to sold-out crowds,[7] though it failed to attract a distributor.[1] Months later, USA Films offered the filmmakers $100,000 for the film, with virtually no participation for the filmmakers, an offer the film's investors accepted. It premiered in New York City on July 27, 2001, then received a theatrical release limited to fewer than 30 cities:[7] Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Champaign, IL, Dallas, Austin, TX, Abilene, TX, Washington D.C., Seattle, Bellingham, WA, Langley, WA, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Athens, GA, Chapel Hill, NC, Tryon, NC, Lafayette, IN, Boston, Providence, RI, Wilton, NH, Madison, WI, Columbia, MO, Minneapolis, Portland, OR and Nashville, TN.


The film received negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 31% based on 65 reviews. Metacritic gives a rating of 42% based on reviews from 24 critics.[8]

Notably, Roger Ebert rated the film with one star out of four, and despised it so much that his review took the form of a sarcastic tribute to Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh".[9]

In contrast, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman awarded the film an "A" and named it as one of the ten best films of the year. Newsweek's David Ansen also lauded it, calling it a "gloriously silly romp" that "made me laugh harder than any other movie this summer. Make that this year."[10] Numerous other critics have praised the film as a witty pop satire and it has gone on to achieve a cult following.[citation needed]

Kristen Bell stated on NPR on September 2, 2012, that this was her favorite film of all time, having watched it "hundreds of times". NPR host Jesse Thorn said on the April 29, 2014, episode of Bullseye, "When someone has an open enough heart to accept this silliness - and that's what it's about for me, an open heart - if someone's heart is open to Wet Hot American Summer, they love it. And that's when I know that me and them, we've got an unbreakable bond. Together forever. Like camp counselors."[11]

Home video[edit]

The film was released in both VHS and DVD formats on January 15, 2002.[7] In 2011, Wain tried to convince Universal Studios to do either a 10th anniversary home video re-release with extra features, or perhaps a Blu-ray release, but Universal rejected the idea. The film would eventually be released on Blu-ray on May 12, 2015.

Upcoming Netflix Miniseries[edit]

On January 9, 2015, Deadline.com reported that an 8 episode miniseries based on the film had begun shooting for release on Netflix. Almost the entire cast of the original film will be returning, along with Showalter and Wain.[12]

Anniversary celebrations[edit]

Events were held around the country to celebrate the film's 10-year anniversary in 2011 and 2012, including a screening of the film in Boston,[13] an art show in Santa Monica of works inspired by the film with a reception hosted by Wain,[14] a screening at the Los Angeles Film School with a Q&A with Wain,[15] a midnight screening in Cleveland, Ohio,[16] a 10th anniversary celebration event with the members of Stella in Brooklyn,[17] and a reading of the script at the San Francisco Comedy Festival with much of the original cast.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jeff Goldsmith (2011-06-17). "David Wain – Wet Hot American Summer". Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith (Podcast). Blogger/Liberated Syndication. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 
  2. ^ "Wet Hot American Summer (2001)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  3. ^ Tobias, Scott (2008-06-11). "The New Cult Canon: Wet Hot American Summer". The AV Club. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  4. ^ "The Rumpus". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  5. ^ "Wet Hot American Summer". Sundance Institute. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 
  6. ^ "Full Credit List". Wet Hot American Summer official website. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  7. ^ a b c "Wet Hot history". Wet Hot American Summer official website. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 
  8. ^ "Wet Hot American Summer (2001)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2013-06-01. 
  9. ^ "Wet Hot American Summer". Chicago Sun-Times. 2001-08-31. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  10. ^ "Review". Wet Hot American Summer official website. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  11. ^ http://www.maximumfun.org/bullseye/bullseye-jesse-thorn-jim-rash-bob-saget-jessica-st-clair-and-lennon-parham
  12. ^ http://deadline.com/2015/01/wet-hot-american-summer-netflix-limited-series-original-cast-return-1201342994
  13. ^ "Coolidge Corner Theatre – Wet Hot American Summer". Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  14. ^ "Wet Hot American Summer 6.10.11 – 6.29.11". Nao Live. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  15. ^ "Wet Hot American Summer 10th Anniversary Q&A Screening with co-writer/director David Wain!". Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  16. ^ Arcade Staff (2011-06-03). "Cult movie classics get big-screen showings". The Morning Journal. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  17. ^ Collis, Clark (2011-08-02). "Wet Hot American Summer 10th anniversary: David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Joe Lo Truglio remember their days at Camp Firewood". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  18. ^ "The Cast Of Wet Hot American Summer Reunited At SF Sketchfest". Retrieved 2012-12-23. 

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