Friday, 24 April 2009

No. 108 : Wet Hot American Summer

Here’s a ‘W’ branded fish that jumped into my boat so to speak. Despite a stellar cast I’d never heard of this 2001 comedy before it was listed on the Onion AV Club’s ‘Worst baby sitter list’. I’m surprised that it doesn’t enjoy a higher profile given its cast and off beat humour but hopefully this review, on the always popular 100 ‘W’ movies list, will give it the boost needed to escape its relative obscurity. Well failure loves company so I’m sure we’ll get along just fine!

The film takes place over the last day of summer for summer camp Firewood. The counsellors are your usual bunch of nerds, jocks and horny teens with the campers being the required virgins, losers and show offs. From this predictable starting point things are skewed from the off with every preconceived notion addressed and quickly dispelled.

The slice of life approach denies the film much characterisation but you get plenty of funny scenes were a set up is taken apart with some unexpected mirth. For example a coach gives the rag tag camp baseball team a stirring speech before they concede the game as being pointless given the well drilled and equipped opponents who show up. Similarly a pair of councillors who are discovered to be gay are gifted a nice chaise longe rather than get the predictable baiting.

If these set ‘em up and then wrong foot you scenarios sound a bit right on you could be right and to be honest the film gets a bit predictable in its unpredictability. That said there are still some funny scenes including a couple where a negligent councillor brutally kills the witnesses to wrongful deaths that occurred while he was making out with chicks.

The cast of this 2001 film were largely unknown but today this would be a major release. For your money you get Niles Crane, Brian Fontana (Anchorman), Elizabeth Banks (Knocked Up), Janeane Garofalo (Mystery Men) and Amy Poehler (Blades of Glory). Most only have small parts but they all add up to a decent ensemble piece that deconstructs one of those American institutions, like the prom and the make out party, that we Brits can only dream about.

The film has a wafer thin plot about a piece of Skylab hitting the camp talent show but basically it is a series of sketches demonstrating how mental and horny everyone is. My favourites were the randy chef who takes advice from a tin of vegetables before making love to a fridge and Fantana’s sex mad and murderous councillor.

The film is a bit uneven and you have no empathy for any of the characters at all but it does generate a few laughs and is at least a bit different and subversive.

Best Bit : Witness Disposal
‘W’ Rating : 16/23

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