Wet Hot American Summer the movie is an absurd gem of a flick that has gained quite a cult status since it came out in 2001. The film is ripe with tongue-in-cheek, satirical (and often bizarre) humor that certainly isn’t for everyone. The same can be said about the eight-episode prequel season that launched on Netflix on July 31st only, well, it’s even weirder. And that’s not a bad thing.
While the film version focused on the last day of summer at Camp Firewood, the TV series focuses on the first day of camp. By the end of the show, everything is setup the way it needs to be to serve as a successful prequel to the movie even though there are some resolutions that the characters themselves don’t entirely believe or understand. But that’s one of the best parts of the series. There is an obvious, self-awareness that everyone involved understands that the first movie was ludicrous and worthy of mockery. Plus, this prequel wasn’t really needed. It was only made because of the star power of the ensemble cast and their need to have some fun together.
The plot (yes, let’s call it that) focuses on the main characters of the film and helps explain their motivations at the onset of the movie. Added into the mix are H. Jon Benjamin as Mitch, the camp director, and his assistant Greg, played by Jason Schwartzman. Together, with Beth (Janeane Garofalo), they uncover a sinister plan by a company called Xenstar, who are authorized by the Reagan administration to dump toxic waste at the campsite. During their journey, we discover the origin story of the beloved Can of Vegetables (the one from the movie who admits he can suck his own dick).
Amy Poehler reprises her role as Susie, as she and her love interest Ben (Bradley Cooper) attempt to organize the camp’s musical “Electro/City.” Joining in on the fun is John Slattery (Mad Men), who plays a quasi-famous play director named Claude Dumet that is dead set on sleeping with Susie. It’s a good thing that Ben won’t mind because if you recall, he’s gay and infatuated with McKinley (Michael Ian Black).
Those are the two main storylines but there is a lot more going on. You find out why the camp’s cook Gene (Christopher Meloni) is pretending to be a guy named Jonas and how his engagement to Gail (Molly Shannon) comes about. There is a crazy reason for why Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) is at the camp. You get to see how Andy (Paul Rudd) and Katie (Marguerite Moreau) hook up while getting a great view into the world of Camp Tiger Claw, the camp of choice for the rich elite kids such as Katie’s current boyfriend Blake (Josh Charles). Beth’s future love interest Henry (David Hyde Pierce) gets a cool little backstory and just so much other stuff that is jam-packed into an eight-episode arc, including an ode to the famous Anchorman fight sequences and an explanation on why they look fifteen years older than they do in the movie.
There are also a ton of great cameos here too. Michael Cera plays a lawyer named Johnny Pisspot, who goes toe-to-toe with Xenstar. Weird Al Yankovic plays a hypnotist who is more than meets the eye. Chris Pine is a reclusive rock star trying to work on his song that will change the world (fans of the movie can already guess what that song is). And after stealing the show on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Mad Men alumni Jon Hamm plays President Reagan’s personal assassin known as The Falcon. And when he crosses paths with Gene, let’s just say it’s a fight to remember.
Overall, the series has a ton of great laughs. Christopher Meloni once again steals the show and has a chase scene with Victor (Ken Marino) that is unexpected and side-splitting funny. You also get a classic “I’m gonna dip my balls in it” moment that fans of The State will surely appreciate.
Fans of the original movie should love this series for sure. The self-referential stuff may get a tad annoying to some people, but there is a charm to it that can definitely be appreciated. Outsiders may have a hard time connecting to the material but give it a shot if you like absurdity. There is just so much to say about this show that the best thing to say is go watch it for yourself. Then go watch the movie. Preferably with the fart track commentary on.