Wet Hot American Summer (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"We've had a good summer training for the final game against the anonymously evil players from our rival camp, Oh, we had some wacky practices, and sometimes it seemed like we'd never have a chance, but now let's get out there and fall way behind, but show our spunk and determination by coming slowly back, then winning the game with a trick play that we made up ourselves. Who's with me?" 

"You see, Coop, I do think you're a much nicer person than Eddie. Eddie is an asshole, but he's cut like a statue, and hung like a horse. So I don't even care that he's completely insincere, and cheats on me constantly. I'd be interested in you if I were looking to get married or have a relationship, or something, but I'm 16 and all I'm into now is sex. Sex with Eddie, not you." 

It is a parody/homage/remembrance of the "camp" movies of the 70's and 80's, and it manages to get all the familiar clichés and characters on the screen. Sometimes it's funny and right on the mark. At other times the funny concepts are ruined by going on too long or being woefully overperformed, as if Larry Storch were acting out the part of all three stooges. 

On the last day of camp, the kids are putting on the final talent show, but Skylab is falling out of the sky, toward the rec center. The science geeks end up saving the camp by deflecting the falling satellite with a homemade device made from radio receivers and peanut butter jars and other camp flotsam. The details aren't important.

This is a difficult movie to analyze because at times it tries very hard to be bad, in order to create the same feel as the bad movies it parodies. Therefore, if it succeeds, it sucks, and your viewing reward is to earn a smile of recognition of its suckworthiness. This leads to confusion, because the worse it is, the better it is. The following is quoted from salon.com


 "Wet Hot American Summer" is a thoroughly inept piece of moviemaking. You're more likely to find a ham sandwich at a Passover dinner than to find a laugh in this picture"

no DVD available yet.

This reviewer doesn't realize that he has written a positive review. You see, the movie was trying to duplicate those clichéd camp movies. It was trying to be that bad. The salon.com review was an acknowledgement that it succeeded brilliantly. In fact, there are times when the whole point of the movie is that the humor is mean to be unfunny, to show that what they thought was funny then really wasn't. 

Thus, if the movie had been funny, it would have failed. 

Obviously, the reviewer at salon.com didn't understand how Captain Kirk tricked Mudd's robots. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.8 
  • With their dollars ... a disaster. Released in two theaters, reviewed scathingly by the NY critics, marketers shut down the distribution plan after only $45,000 gross.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Not as bad as the critics said, although it has moments that seem to be written by fifth graders.  It succeeds occasionally, and might be worth seeing if the premise intrigues you, just because it is so novel.

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