Wet Hot American Summer
|Wet Hot American Summer|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Wain|
|Produced by||Howard Bernstein|
|Edited by||Meg Reticker|
|Distributed by||USA Films|
|Box office||$295,206 (United States)|
Wet Hot American Summer is a 2001 American satirical comedy film directed by David Wain from a screenplay written by Wain and Michael Showalter. The film features an ensemble cast, including Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Michael Showalter (and various other members of MTV's sketch comedy group The State), Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Zak Orth, and A. D. Miles. The film takes place during the last full day at a fictional summer camp in 1981, and spoofs the sex comedies aimed at teen audiences of that era.
The film was a critical and commercial failure, but has since developed a cult following, as many of its cast members have gone on to high-profile work. Netflix revived the franchise with the release of an eight-episode prequel series starring most of the film's original cast, on July 31, 2015; and an eight-episode sequel series, set ten years after the original film, on August 4, 2017.
In 1981, Camp Firewood, a summer camp located near Waterville, Maine, is preparing for its last day of camp. Counselors have one last chance to have a romantic encounter with another person at Camp Firewood. The summer culminates in a talent show.
Beth, the camp director, struggles to keep her counselors in order—and her campers alive—while falling in love with Henry, an astrophysics associate professor at 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 has a crush on Katie, his fellow counselor, but has to pry her away from her rebellious, obnoxious, and obviously unfaithful boyfriend, Andy. Only Gene, the shell-shocked Vietnam war veteran and camp chef, can help Coop win Katie—with some help from a talking can of mixed vegetables.
All the while, Gary, Gene's unfortunately chosen apprentice, and J.J. attempt to figure out why McKinley has not been with a woman, the reason being that McKinley is in love with Ben, whom he marries in a ceremony in the lake; Victor attempts to lose his virginity with the resident loose-girl Abby; and Susie and Ben attempt to produce and choreograph the greatest talent show Camp Firewood has ever seen.
- Janeane Garofalo as Beth
- David Hyde Pierce as Professor Henry Newman
- Molly Shannon as Gail von Kleinenstein
- Paul Rudd as Andy
- Christopher Meloni as Gene
- Michael Showalter as Gerald "Coop" Cooperberg/Alan Shemper
- Marguerite Moreau as Katie Finnerty
- Ken Marino as Victor Pulak
- Michael Ian Black as McKinley
- Zak Orth as J.J.
- A.D. Miles as Gary
- Amy Poehler as Susie
- Bradley Cooper as Ben
- Marisa Ryan as Abby Bernstein
- Kevin Sussman as Steve
- Elizabeth Banks as Lindsay
- Joe Lo Truglio as Neil
- Gideon Jacobs as Aaron
- Judah Friedlander as Ron Von Kleinenstein
- H. Jon Benjamin as Can of Mixed Vegetables
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. 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, including Meatballs (1979), Sleepaway Camp (1983), and Indian Summer (1993). According to Wain, they wanted to make a film structured like the films Nashville, Dazed and Confused and Do the Right Thing—"films that take place in one contained time period that have lots of different characters."
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, the film had been promoted as costing $5 million, in an attempt to attract a better offer from a distributor. Because of the film's relatively small budget, the cast was paid very little; Paul Rudd has stated that he is uncertain that he received any compensation at all for the film.
Principal photography lasted 28 days, and, according to director David Wain, it rained on every day of shooting. Exterior shots were filmed when possible, sometimes under covers or umbrellas, but some scenes were moved indoors instead. In many interior scenes, rain seen outside turns into sun as soon as characters step outside. Due to the cold, the actors' breath can be seen in some outdoor scenes. The film was shot at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
Songs in the film
- "Jane" by Jefferson Starship
- "Juke Box Hero" by Foreigner
- "Backwards from Three" by Craig Wedren and Theodore Shapiro
- "Wet Hot American Summer" by Craig Wedren
- "Love is Alright Tonight" by Rick Springfield
- "Danny's Song" by Loggins & Messina
- "Turn Me Loose" by Loverboy
- "Beth" by Kiss
- "Day By Day" from Godspell
- "Harden My Heart" by Quarterflash
- "Higher and Higher" by Craig Wedren and Theodore Shapiro
- "When It's Over" by Loverboy
- "Wet Hot American Dream" by Peter Salett
- "Summer in America" by Mr. Blue & Chubb Rock
Wet Hot American Summer premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, where it was screened four times to sold-out crowds, though it failed to attract a distributor. 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 limited release theatrical in fewer than 30 cities.
Wet Hot American Summer received mostly negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 33%, based on 67 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "As comedy, Wet Hot American Summer is a slapdash, fragmented affair that misses more often than hits. As parody, it fails because it attempts to satirize something ridiculous and self-parodying in itself." Metacritic gives the film a score of 42 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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." Numerous other critics have praised the film as a witty pop satire and it has gone on to achieve a cult following.
Actress Kristen Bell stated on NPR on September 2, 2012, that Wet Hot American Summer was her favorite film, 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."
The film was released in both VHS and DVD formats on January 15, 2002. In 2011, Wain tried to convince Universal Studios to prepare either a 10th anniversary home video re-release with extra features, or a Blu-ray release, but Universal rejected the ideas. The film was released on Blu-ray on May 12, 2015.
The film is followed by two Netflix series, with one serving as a prequel and one as a sequel. The prequel, First Day of Camp, was released on July 31, 2015, while the sequel, Ten Years Later, was released on August 4, 2017.
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, an art show in Santa Monica of works inspired by the film, with a reception hosted by Wain, a screening at the Los Angeles Film School with a Q&A with Wain, a midnight screening in Cleveland, Ohio, a 10th anniversary celebration event with the members of Stella in Brooklyn, and a reading of the script at the San Francisco Comedy Festival, with much of the original cast.
Undeveloped TV series
During an interview with Variety, Wain and Showalter stated that they wrote a pilot for a possible Fox television series based on the film. Wain described the series as a "22-minute Fox sitcom with commercials and nothing Rated R, so it was a little bit odd." The pilot was not picked up for a series.
Alongside the prequel series, a making-of documentary, Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot, was released on Netflix on July 24, 2015, consisting of behind-the-scenes interviews and footage shot during the filming of the movie.
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