Last evening, the four of us who write for this blog sat down with some friends to experience Wet Hot American Summer. I'd recommended the flick because most of the people in the room had not seen it yet, and I knew that those who were fans of David Wain's later hit, Role Models, would probably dig its comedic style.
The film takes its time to introduce the characters who reside at the early-'80s camp where all of the film's events - except for a hilarious trip to "town" - take place, and most of the crowd was a little apprehensive about the silly comedy. I recall having the same reaction initially, as Wet Hot American Summer is definitely an awkward film to get into as a first time viewer. As a comedy, the film doesn't concern itself with being realistic when dealing with its characters' actions; nor does it realistically acknowledge the concept of time as it scrunches weeks worth of events into one day. This isn't a flaw, necessarily, it's just surprising to an unsuspecting viewer.
For me, the film hits its biggest home run with the performance of Christopher Meloni as Gene - the camp cook who's still dealing with the stresses of the Vietnam War in plenty of inappropriate ways. Meloni plays the angry and disturbed character perfectly, and his subplot's climactic scene is easily the biggest laugh in the film for me. Also bringing the funny are Paul Rudd as the camp's lazy hot guy, and Ken Marino as the afro-wearing counselor who abandons a raft full of kids in the name of lust. The whole film is full of other great gags though, as star Michael Showalter and director Wain combine on a winning script.
Wet Hot American Summer had to grow on me - it's just so odd that you're not sure what it's up to at first - but it's now cemented itself as one of my favorite comedies of the early 2000s. Give it a chance, and you'll probably end up loving the can of mixed vegetables as much as I do.