Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
July 1, 2014 7:59 AM - Subscribe

Set on the last day of camp, in the hot summer of 1981, a group of counselors try to complete their unfinished business before the day ends.
posted by mathowie (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 


Beth: "I have to go meet Jim...Stansel. You know Jim. He's that guy."

Last night watching the movie, I pointed out to people that the name "Jim Stansel" appears in every David Wain movie (including, I can confirm, his new one They Came Together). Here's Wain's explanation (from his Reddit AMA):

Jim Stansel was the name of a guy who used to work with my dad when I was like 10 years old. We have a super-8 movie of him up in a hot air balloon for a radio station promotion in Dallas, and my dad's going "that's Jim Stansel! That's Jim Stansel!" and the name has always stuck in my head. I just love the name!
posted by doctornecessiter at 8:57 AM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


In a movie that is in many ways a commentary on movies and movie tropes, one thing I noticed in particular last night (especially because of conversations we've had on Metafilter) is the clear role of Coop as a "Nice Guy". Katie tells him she's got a boyfriend and isn't interested and he TRIES TO BREAK UP WITH HER BOYFRIEND FOR HER! WTF! WTF IS THAT! It was interesting to me in part because it shows how ingrained this idea is in our culture and I like how Wet Hot American Summer treated this; she's sixteen and she's making her own choices and even if "last night was amazing" and she loves him or whatever it's cool if her priorities right now are just sex. I thought it was funny and I also, to take the movie maybe a little too seriously, appreciated Katie being granted the agency to say what she actually wants and not feel like she owes Coop anything just because he's so nice or cares about her so much or whatever. That was actually really refreshing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:42 AM on July 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I must have watched this movie 20 times in the first five years it was out on DVD, but last night was the first time in a long time that I'd watched it...It's really amazing how many people in it are major stars (and multiple Academy Award nominees, in one case) now!

I know two people who were able to see this in the theater when it was first "out" (did it get an actual release? Or did my friends just happen to make it to isolated screenings?), and before I'd been able to see it one of them told me that Paul Rudd was the funniest part...Which sounded so strange to me, because at the time I only knew as the guy from Clueless, and his wasn't a terribly funny part in that.

But holy crap, he and Christopher "super serious Oz/SVU guy" Meloni were surprisingly, fantastically funny in this movie.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:15 AM on July 1, 2014


Oh yeah Christopher Meloni is AMAZING.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:16 AM on July 1, 2014


Watching it last night I was also struck by how much they get out of people I wouldn't expect to be funny (Meloni/Rudd) and how little they get out of Amy Poehler. Admittedly she's a minor character, but she's pretty flat, especially given how phenomenal she's been later in her career.

The first time I saw this movie, I didn't really know what to make of it and I didn't enjoy it very much, but it really got better on repeating viewings. I know it got panned by most critics, and I wonder if any of them would have a different assessment if they watched it a couple times.

Glancing at the Wikipedia, I also notice that apparently at some point Kristin Bell said "if someone's heart is open to Wet Hot American Summer, they love it. And that's when I know that me and them, we've got an unbreakable bond." So, if you enjoyed this movie, remember that you and Kristin Bell have an unbreakable bond, and that's pretty awesome.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:20 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Easily in my all time top ten. It's so anarchist, and yet it truly has a great heart, and a great amount of affection and honesty for these characters that are all descended from completely two-dimensional gags.

If you get the chance by all means watch the outtakes. For pacing or other reasons I can see why most of that stuff didn't make it into the final cut, but some of the funniest, craziest bits didn't make it to the screen.

The hot house corn stuff? It's SO good. Watching it with as critical an eye as I can muster, yeah, I see that mall-girl (or whatever) and D&D guy (or whatever) don't work quite well enough, and that they cause cracks in that scene, even though Meloni and "Cure Girl" are so, so funny.

And, my favorite, the Animal House thing. In the standard cut when Coop confronts Katie on the porch of that cabin it FEELS and looks like when Boon confronts Katy at Donald Sutherland's house in Animal House, I remember feeling that way before the DVD came out. Turns out, in the outtakes you can see that this is because they filmed a version of the scene verbatim and it is SO GREAT. All three of the actors kill it, Marguerite Moreau especially gets her frustrated Karen Allen gestures just right. And the whole exercise is a microcosm of the film in general - taking this heartfelt scene from a dopey movie, and replaying it so straight that it works both as an emotional beat and as a send up of the original. WHAS is like that ll the way through - it's this crazy movie that has these honest emotional beats throughout. But the emotional beats are in the service of this overall dumb thing. I really love it.

I don't know how wide a release it saw, but it played at the Village East (in NYC) for a long time - I saw it several times there. A friend dragged me along to see it, and then I dragged along everyone I could find.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:44 AM on July 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


WHAT

do we DO

at the BARBECUE

if we're VEGAN?!


Wet Hot American Summer and Waiting For Guffman are two movies where I always watch the outtakes/deleted scenes immediately when it ends. It's gotten to the point where when I'm remembering a line I don't always remember if it was actually in the movie or not.

I don't know how wide a release it saw, but it played at the Village East (in NYC) for a long time - I saw it several times there. A friend dragged me along to see it, and then I dragged along everyone I could find.

I know that at least one of my two friends who saw it in the theater in 2001 did so when visiting NYC -- which may be the only place where it opened for any length of time; I don't know about the other friend but it's completely possible that he happened to be up there also when he saw it. (Neither are New Yorkers.)
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:52 AM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


WHAT

do we DO

at the BARBECUE

if we're VEGAN?!


She deserves an Oscar for her reading of that line. All three times.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:56 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw this movie, I didn't really know what to make of it and I didn't enjoy it very much, but it really got better on repeating viewings.

Personally I've found that true of all of David Wain's movies...In fact, the only one that I haven't completely warmed to after the fact has been The Ten (which has a few great parts, but as a whole for me doesn't quite hang together).

I laughed quite a bit in They Came Together, but about an hour after it ended I'd forgotten that I'd even been to the movies that evening. I anticipate liking it more when I watch it again eventually.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:05 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only other David Wain movie I've seen (apparently, I learned he was a person when reading your comment just now) is Role Models,* which I remember liking a lot after seeing it in the theaters, but haven't seen since. Might be worth a rewatch someday.

*A movie that both my wife and roommate are constitutional incapable of remembering the name of, calling it things like "Just Friends" or "Ahoy Captain."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:11 AM on July 1, 2014


I saw it in the theatre in Los Angeles.

My favorite scene is Paul Rudd petulantly cleaning up his mess in the cafeteria. I just cackled aloud watching it again at my desk. It's perfection!
posted by something something at 12:37 PM on July 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Role Models is such an underrated movie. I actually like it a lot better than WHAS or The Ten (and I like both of those quite a bit).

psst, we're choosing future Summer Club movies here!
posted by troika at 12:37 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I saw it in the theater. Maybe in NYC? I had been obsessed with The State, so I had to see it.

I loved it from the first time, and I'm kinda surprised how much the critics hated it. I think it may have just been ahead of its time. These days it would be like a miniseries on Netflix and the whole internet would go crazy over all the obscure references.

I wa also surprised by Paul Rudd - I think it may have been his first comedic role.
posted by lunasol at 5:08 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


We tried to see it in the theater (we're big The State fans in my household) but couldn't find it, here in Pittsburgh. Not sure it ever made it out here, where most non-blockbuster movies take a little while to pop up on our radar.

Just rewatched tonight for the first time in several years. Christopher Meloni is definitely still the funniest thing in the movie. My partner tells me that, per the director's commentary, most of the funniest bits were Meloni's improvisations.
posted by Stacey at 6:49 PM on July 1, 2014


My favorite scene is Paul Rudd petulantly cleaning up his mess in the cafeteria. I just cackled aloud watching it again at my desk. It's perfection!

Favorite scene. Friends and I still call it "Rudding it" when we act that way.
posted by inigo2 at 12:49 PM on July 2, 2014


Chris Meloni was Freakshow in Harold and Kumar. I think of his serious stuff as settling, because he's such a great comic actor. He also had a nice guest appearance on Scrubs.

He and Paul Rudd have the problem that they are conventionally attractive, which for some reason means comedy is seen as slumming.

My favorite part of the movie is definitely Janeane Garofalo telling David Hyde Pierce she's pregnant at the end. That entire conversation kills me.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:19 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just watched this movie for the first time and went into it blind. I knew that it was a summer camp comedy, but that was it. I actually expected it to be more Dazed and Confused, but the humor seemed more Naked Gun or Hot Shots to me. Not that I am complaining, but it took me a bit to get into the style of humor.

Pretty much any humor that relies on those kind of gags ends up being hit and miss, but I think Wet Hot American Summer ended up connecting with more of its jokes than it missed. I also found it amazing how many actors in the film that I recognized. For a much maligned movie on Rotten Tomatoes (33%!), there is a lot of Hollywood star power (granted, this was prior to most of them becoming big).

To me, the scene that really nailed the movie was when they were looking for Ken Marino (what hair!) in the nurse's office and just started smashing everything. I'm not sure why, but it killed me.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:43 PM on July 2, 2014


I didn't even realize this was set at a Jewish summer camp until I read about it in an interview. I went to Jewish summer camps and so it just felt like what I thought camps were like. On the other hand, it explains why the campers are so dumbfounded at the end of the camp performance of Gospell, and why the Catskills comedian just kills them.

For me, perhaps the wildest comic moment is Ken Marino singing Danny's Song.
posted by maxsparber at 6:58 PM on July 2, 2014


the campers are so dumbfounded at the end of the camp performance of Gospell

On the DVD commentary the filmmakers claim that the campers booing at the end of "Day By Day" is meant only to be absurd, after we just watched them all get into it during the performance, but they recognize that it looks like they're booing the cross...But by having the image of the cross appearing behind the stage be the one specific thing that seems to set everyone off...If it wasn't meant to be the campers booing the cross, then they didn't really play it right.

I always saw it as just absurd until they pointed that out on the commentary, and now I just don't know what to believe.
posted by doctornecessiter at 3:57 AM on July 3, 2014


Oh! I was wondering why the camper names Janeane Garofalo was improvising all sounded like they were meant to be Jewish.

I have a theory that every person was, at some point, a character in this movie. I was Cure Girl.
posted by capricorn at 9:00 AM on July 3, 2014


You know the old "I could listen to X read the phone book"? H Jon Benjamin is that, for comedy.
posted by condour75 at 9:48 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking of Garofalo's list of Jewish camper names: "Jessica Azaria" is a tribute to Hank Azaria. While they were filming, Garofalo discovered that Hank Azaria had attended the location camp...It was like, she saw his name on some kind of Wall of Fame, or he'd carved it somewhere, something like that. They knew each other from Mystery Men...She called him up from the set and was like, "Guess where I am right now..."

And, Googling this for confirmation, I found this.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:15 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know the old "I could listen to X read the phone book"? H Jon Benjamin is that, for comedy.

speaking of...speaking.....

I just learned that Arty the radio kid's voice is that of Samm Levine, not the kid playing Arty. Why did they dub in his voice? I don't know!
posted by troika at 10:30 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can hear Arty's real voice in one of the deleted scenes, and it's sort of raspy and whispery...Maybe they decided after the fact that they wanted a more confident DJ-sounding voice.

I'm sure they must discuss this on the commentary, but it's been a long time since I've heard it and I don't remember.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:38 AM on July 3, 2014


Are y'all watching the DVD version with extra farts added? Because you really should be watching with extra farts added.


Also, the one guy with longer hair who is absolutely dying of laughter during the Catskills bit is my favorite moment in any movie ever made.
posted by graphnerd at 11:01 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just watched this movie for the first time and went into it blind. I knew that it was a summer camp comedy, but that was it. I actually expected it to be more Dazed and Confused, but the humor seemed more Naked Gun or Hot Shots to me.

Okay, so I'm watching it on streaming right now to see what all the hype is about and I'm thinking...yeah, this is 1980's summer camp version of Dazed and Confused. (Note: am watching everyone get high at this moment in time.) Also weirdly seems like the FIRST day of camp (I know, I know), what with all of the introductory-ish things going on, like oh yeah, the last day of camp is totally the day to make the move on the random professor next door and have auditions. Huh?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:04 PM on August 2, 2015


Ooookay, I did not expect a hippie gay woodland wedding in the river.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:14 PM on August 2, 2015


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