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Wet Hot American Summer’

Patrick McManus | Friday, September 9, 2011

Some movies move us. Some movies make us think. Some movies make us question what it means to be human. “Wet Hot American Summer” is not one of those movies.

The film earned the ire of critics and failed to make an impact at the box office upon its release in 2001, but has since become a cult classic. Written by Michael Showalter and David Wain, directed by Wain and featuring an all-star comedy cast, “Wet Hot American Summer” is a satiric homage to summer camp movies in the tradition of the classic Bill Murray film “Meatballs.”

“Wet Hot American Summer” follows the events of August 18, 1981— the last day at Camp Firewood for the many kids and counselors. The camp’s inhabitants seek to end their summer on a high note.

Wain and Showalter, both alums of the early ‘90s MTV sketch comedy show “The State” and the Comedy Central series “Stella,” made the movie a family affair. They brought in Michael Ian Black, a fellow veteran from both series to play McKinley, and Ken Marino from “The State” to play Victor. Marino is perhaps best known for his starring turn as Ron in the Starz original series “Party Down.”

The film is chocked full of current-day big names. “Wet Hot American Summer” features Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks, who reunited with director David Wain for 2008’s “Role Models.” The cast also includes alternative comedian Janeane Garafalo, David Hyde Pierce of “Fraiser” fame, “SNL” cast member Molly Shannon, Judah Friedlander from “30 Rock,” the immensely talented Amy Poehler, and the recently-minted star Bradley Cooper.

“Wet Hot” is a very polarizing movie. According to movie-reviewing website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 19% Fresh rating with the Top Critics, while 83% of audience members liked it. Tom Maurstad of the “Dallas Morning News” deemed the movie, “an almost laughless bomb,” while Sean Axmaker of the “Seattle Post-Intelligencer” called it “harmless, amiably entertaining and completely pointless.” Although even the film’s good reviews were not especially flattering, any audience can enjoy a pointless, funny movie.

While “Wet Hot American Summer” is not the best work of any of its actors, the ensemble cast turns in admirable performances in this summer camp farce that does anything but take itself seriously. For moviegoers who enjoy recognizing people from other things, hearing camp stories or taking a lighthearted comedic trek down memory lane, “Wet Hot American Summer” is a movie you might want to check out.

“Wet Hot American Summer” is playing at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center Saturday at 11:59 p.m. Tickets are $3 for students and are available online at performingarts.nd.edu.

Contact Patrick McManus at pmcmanu1@nd.edu