Well, if i hadn’t taken a number of hiatuses, my 100th entry in the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” series (that’s First Class, Independent Little-Known Movie, just a reminder) would have come around June or July 2011. But a belated milestone is still a milestone, so I’m going to celebrate by writing about ”Wet Hot American Summer,” perhaps one of the most underappreciated cult comedies of recent memory. Starring just about all your favorite comedians WAY before they were famous, it’s a hilarious time capsule that surely needs to be opened if you are a fan of anyone in the massive cast!
It’s the last day of summer at a Jewish camp in Maine – in 1981, no less – so that means everyone is trying to attend to some unfinished business. The movie juggles a ton of storylines in an hour and a half, some of which don’t work as well as others, I’ll admit. A number of the jokes are just so stupid, you have to wonder whether you want to laugh or just cringe.
But director David Wain, who later found commercial success and critical acclaim with “Role Models,” just never lets the relentless onslaught of over-the-top, farcical comedy end. And for that, it could make for a “Napoleon Dynamite”-style viewing trajectory: perhaps just some chuckling the first time, and then those giggles turn into full-on belly laughs as the nuances of the humor reveal themselves over multiple viewings.
It’s certainly worth watching to see the beginnings of Paul Rudd’s caustic humor, albeit slightly more hammed up, as an airheaded horndog lifeguard who can really cop an attitude. The object of his affection, at least momentarily, is Elizabeth Banks – until he decides she tastes like hamburgers and doesn’t like her anymore.
Amy Poehler is another scene-stealer as Susie, the bossy, controlling counselor in charge of theater intending to stage a number of “Godspell” as if she were working on Broadway. What makes her character even better, though, is that she is flanked by preppy, Lacoste-clad minion Ben at all times. Now, Ben is played by none other than Phil Wenneck himself, Bradley Cooper. His PR people have done a mighty great job keeping this movie on the down low … I’ll let you find out for yourself why he probably doesn’t want many people to discover this early role of his. I think it’s absolutely hilarious, as is the rest of the movie, and I highly recommend you find out Bradley Cooper’s surprise and many other raunchy delights I didn’t even mention in this cursory overview!