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Old Movies you must know 2 - from our resident quirky critic Ross Forbes in the USA

Movies You Must Know 2: Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Ambient Lounge knows that sitting in our bean bags is an experience in and of itself, but there’s no better way to augment that experience than curling up with a good film. Movies You Must Know (Or MyMK, for short) is our new bi-monthly blog series, where we delve deep into the cavernous archives of cinematic history, and return with hidden gems that you might have overlooked. If you’ve heard of this entry’s film, well, we’ll try to find you a good and obscure one next week. But if you haven’t, why not take our advice and check this one out? After all, it’s not like you were ever going to watch all of Citizen Kane, were you?

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Never heard of it.

Why don’t I know this film?

The movie is a spoof of late 70’s/early 80’s summer camp/teen sex comedies such as Meatballs and Porky’s, mixed with the personal camp experiences of its writers, David Wain and Michael Ian Black. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and it sold out its four screenings, but failed to find a distributor at the Festival. When it was finally released, it was lambasted by critics, and was completely ignored by the general public, grossing less than $300,000, well below its $5 million budget.

Ok, fair enough… why should I know this film?

Take a look at that link again. The aggregate score from critics for WHAS is only 31%. Look to the side, however, and audiences scored it at 82%. Why? Well, movie critics generally are terrible barometers of good comedy… And, oh, is this a comedy! It takes every cliché from those movies, nerdy guys with beautiful girls, scrappy underdogs climbing to the top, and turns them so subversively, they basically ruin any way you view the originals ever again. But, you know, in a good way. The movie resonated with audiences, because most everybody has either a.) saw the movies they were spoofing, b.) went to summer camp, or c.) were, at one point or another, a teenager, and could see how humiliating the whole experience could be.

Ok… still not convinced… what’s it about?

The movie takes place at a summer camp over the course of one day, August, 18th, 1981. It is the last day of camp. And… stuff happens.

Stuff happens?

Ok, well… why don’t you ask me who is in the movie first?

(Sigh) Who’s in the movie then?

Glad you asked. And now I want you to close your eyes and imagine this lineup. Paul Rudd. Amy Poehler. Janeane Garofalo. Molly Shannon. Bradley Cooper. David Hyde Pierce (Niles Crane from Frasier). Christopher Meloni (Detective Elliot Stabler from Law & Order).

All those people and I never heard of it?!?

Yeah, I know. Janeane Garofalo plays the head of the summer camp, who has a crush on the camp’s neighbor, a very high-strung astrophysicist played by Pierce. Christopher Meloni plays a Vietnam Veteran Cafeteria Cook, struggling to come to terms with his perverse urges. Paul Rudd plays the classic bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-shit camp lothario, whose mind changes on even the tiniest cruel whim. Molly Shannon plays an arts-and-crafts teacher, newly divorced, who seeks life advice from the 10-year-olds she teaches. Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler play theater geeks who strive to put on the best talent show in camp history. And that’s not even 40% of what else is going on…

So… How funny is it?

Well… you’re not going to like my answer, but that depends. The jokes are non-stop and often non-linear. Characters change their moods and opinions at the drop of a hat. Seemingly dark events that would in normal circumstances have dire consequences are completely disregarded only moments later. Essentially, the main plot thread involves a nerdy camp counselor, played to perfection by Michael Showalter, as he hopelessly pines for the camp’s most beautiful girl, played by Marguerite Moreau, an actress who has been sorely overlooked in recent years. All the other characters aren’t fundamentally changed by the events over the course of the movie, but if you are able to maintain a healthy suspension of disbelief and allow the movie to follow its own inane course, you’re gonna have a good time!

What’s the best scene in the movie?

Whew! I’ll have to go with the scene where a number of the counselors sneak into the quaint little town near the camp for some good old fashioned mischief. Shown in one of the movies many montages, that mischief escalates from sneaking cigarettes to mugging an old lady for drug money and climaxing with all of the characters nodding off from heroin in a flop house. It is strange to find yourself laughing at their antics, which go from hijinks to actual felonies, but they return to the camp as if nothing happened, and just like so many other parts of the movie, it is gone with a nary a puff of cinematic smoke.

What’s the best line from the movie?

God this is hard! Ok, ok, let’s just go with this one:

If you wanna smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass - just be honest about it. Look, Gene, I've never told anyone this before, but I can suck my own dick, and I do it a lot.

So guess who said that line? Did you guess… a can of vegetables? You are right! Also, you forgot to take your medication this morning…

Ok, I’m convinced, is there anything else I should know about this movie?

Sure! It’s kind of dated, but if you get the DVD, there’s a commentary option called “IBS Commentary”. What is it, you ask? Oh it’s the same movie, only with hundreds, if not thousands of strategically placed farts! That’s right everybody is farting up a storm and the best part? It actually works....kind of. When somebody bends over? Fart! Sex Scene? FAAAAAART! Because, you know, farts.

Sounds… interesting. I’ll give it a shot.

Movies You Must Know 2: Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Ambient Lounge knows that sitting in our bean bags is an experience in and of itself, but there’s no better way to augment that experience than curling up with a good film. Movies You Must Know (Or MyMK, for short) is our new bi-monthly blog series, where we delve deep into the cavernous archives of cinematic history, and return with hidden gems that you might have overlooked. If you’ve heard of this entry’s film, well, we’ll try to find you a good and obscure one next week. But if you haven’t, why not take our advice and check this one out? After all, it’s not like you were ever going to watch all of Citizen Kane, were you?

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Never heard of it.

Why don’t I know this film?

The movie is a spoof of late 70’s/early 80’s summer camp/teen sex comedies such as Meatballs and Porky’s, mixed with the personal camp experiences of its writers, David Wain and Michael Ian Black. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and it sold out its four screenings, but failed to find a distributor at the Festival. When it was finally released, it was lambasted by critics, and was completely ignored by the general public, grossing less than $300,000, well below its $5 million budget.

Ok, fair enough… why should I know this film?

Take a look at that link again. The aggregate score from critics for WHAS is only 31%. Look to the side, however, and audiences scored it at 82%. Why? Well, movie critics generally are terrible barometers of good comedy… And, oh, is this a comedy! It takes every cliché from those movies, nerdy guys with beautiful girls, scrappy underdogs climbing to the top, and turns them so subversively, they basically ruin any way you view the originals ever again. But, you know, in a good way. The movie resonated with audiences, because most everybody has either a.) saw the movies they were spoofing, b.) went to summer camp, or c.) were, at one point or another, a teenager, and could see how humiliating the whole experience could be.

Ok… still not convinced… what’s it about?

The movie takes place at a summer camp over the course of one day, August, 18th, 1981. It is the last day of camp. And… stuff happens.

Stuff happens?

Ok, well… why don’t you ask me who is in the movie first?

(Sigh) Who’s in the movie then?

Glad you asked. And now I want you to close your eyes and imagine this lineup. Paul Rudd. Amy Poehler. Janeane Garofalo. Molly Shannon. Bradley Cooper. David Hyde Pierce (Niles Crane from Frasier). Christopher Meloni (Detective Elliot Stabler from Law & Order).

All those people and I never heard of it?!?

Yeah, I know. Janeane Garofalo plays the head of the summer camp, who has a crush on the camp’s neighbor, a very high-strung astrophysicist played by Pierce. Christopher Meloni plays a Vietnam Veteran Cafeteria Cook, struggling to come to terms with his perverse urges. Paul Rudd plays the classic bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-shit camp lothario, whose mind changes on even the tiniest cruel whim. Molly Shannon plays an arts-and-crafts teacher, newly divorced, who seeks life advice from the 10-year-olds she teaches. Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler play theater geeks who strive to put on the best talent show in camp history. And that’s not even 40% of what else is going on…

So… How funny is it?

Well… you’re not going to like my answer, but that depends. The jokes are non-stop and often non-linear. Characters change their moods and opinions at the drop of a hat. Seemingly dark events that would in normal circumstances have dire consequences are completely disregarded only moments later. Essentially, the main plot thread involves a nerdy camp counselor, played to perfection by Michael Showalter, as he hopelessly pines for the camp’s most beautiful girl, played by Marguerite Moreau, an actress who has been sorely overlooked in recent years. All the other characters aren’t fundamentally changed by the events over the course of the movie, but if you are able to maintain a healthy suspension of disbelief and allow the movie to follow its own inane course, you’re gonna have a good time!

What’s the best scene in the movie?

Whew! I’ll have to go with the scene where a number of the counselors sneak into the quaint little town near the camp for some good old fashioned mischief. Shown in one of the movies many montages, that mischief escalates from sneaking cigarettes to mugging an old lady for drug money and climaxing with all of the characters nodding off from heroin in a flop house. It is strange to find yourself laughing at their antics, which go from hijinks to actual felonies, but they return to the camp as if nothing happened, and just like so many other parts of the movie, it is gone with a nary a puff of cinematic smoke.

What’s the best line from the movie?

God this is hard! Ok, ok, let’s just go with this one:

If you wanna smear mud on your ass, smear mud on your ass - just be honest about it. Look, Gene, I've never told anyone this before, but I can suck my own dick, and I do it a lot.

So guess who said that line? Did you guess… a can of vegetables? You are right! Also, you forgot to take your medication this morning…

Ok, I’m convinced, is there anything else I should know about this movie?

Sure! It’s kind of dated, but if you get the DVD, there’s a commentary option called “IBS Commentary”. What is it, you ask? Oh it’s the same movie, only with hundreds, if not thousands of strategically placed farts! That’s right everybody is farting up a storm and the best part? It actually works....kind of. When somebody bends over? Fart! Sex Scene? FAAAAAART! Because, you know, farts.

Sounds… interesting. I’ll give it a shot.

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