Get Ready for a “Weird” Musical! Wet Hot American Summer Cast Reveals Their …

31 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Wet Hot American Summer’ on Netflix — ready your high tolerance for profane comedy.

Who’s ready for some Broadway-level shenanigans? In 2015, watching the opening scene of “Wet Hot American Summer,” David Wain and Michael Showalter’s 2001 box-office dud turned cult favorite, is a bit like watching the origin story for a group of real-life show-biz superheroes.There is one thing that Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, the new prequel series to the cult classic movie that Netflix started streaming on Friday, has that its predecessor never did: anticipation.

As soon as Jefferson Starship’s “Jane” starts playing, you can’t help but imagine cracking open a beer, sitting around a campfire and embarking on a summer of shenanigans. The reactions weren’t good. “It certainly was a disaster with critics, nobody went to see it in theatres, and it was pretty disheartening and upsetting,” says Wain, on the phone with Postmedia Network while riding in a taxi during a rainy day in New York City. “The critics went beyond not liking it or ignoring it, they really were actively hostile toward it. When WHAS arrived in theaters in 2001 the only really recognizable cast members were David Hyde Pierce – who was starring in Frasier at the time – and the alumni from MTV’s too-short-lived sketch comedy program The State.

That means former nobodies such as Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler signed on to take bit parts in an ensemble comedy when they could be, you know, headlining Marvel superhero flicks or starring in network sitcoms. In retrospect, I feel like it was really that it just didn’t fit into any hole that they were aware of, and they didn’t know what to make of it.” But things changed, of course. Since many members of the ensemble have become so big, that means they also have super famous friends that they can convince to take a trip to Camp Firewood, even if it’s just for a few episodes. News. “One of the big storylines in the Netflix series is that they put on a musical called ‘Electro City’ which is based on the musicals of the ‘80s like Starlight Express and Cats, a kind of disco, weird, glam musical.” “The talent show in this puts the talent show in the movie to shame,” star Zak Orth tells E!

Miles, looking earnest and nerdy, now the head writer of “The Tonight Show”; Janeane Garofalo; Showalter; Bradley Cooper, before his Oscar noms and Sexiest Man Alive status; Ken Marino, before “Party Down,” permed and sleeveless and aggro; and Elizabeth Banks, dancing in a bikini top and jeans, looking like something out of Fashion Plates. The satirical comedy, taking place on the final day at a summer camp in the ‘80s, grew into a cult film as audiences started to appreciate its humour. But it has crept to cult status since its initial release, helped along by the growing fame of its cast and a growing taste for its brand of rude, extravagant, tangential-to-reality humor.

On July 27, 2001, when the film first hit theaters, Amy Poehler wouldn’t make her “Saturday Night Live” onscreen debut for another two months, future Oscar darling Bradley Cooper hadn’t yet appeared in a feature film and Paul Rudd was just Josh from “Clueless.” Now, it’s a miracle to get the three, much less the rest of the large cast, together again in the same room. We’ve rounded up the ideal staff of TV characters to inspire (and occasionally intimidate) you all session long, so put a battery in that head lamp, stock up on bug spray, and write your name on the tag of every t-shirt in your trunk. They’re all hilarious, weird, and oddly sympathetic. (Pierce, as an astrophysicist who stumbles onto the scene, says things like, “I’ve got them making miniature black holes with paperclips and soot!”) The movie’s cast was a special group in 2001. Wain directed the movie and the series, and he co-wrote both projects with Michael Showalter, who plays a prominent role in the plot as lovelorn camp counsellor Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg. “The actual vibe of making the series itself was quite similar to what it was 15 years ago, which was kind of refreshing, if not also surreal,” says Wain. “It was the same kind of fun, but it was also different, because when we made the movie, we were all living there on the camp, sleeping in the cabins and eating the camp food, far, far away from any reality at all.

Originally a parody of summer-camp movies and teen comedies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, the film thrived on its inane humor and absurd jokes — like Chris Meloni’s Gene mumbling about humping the kitchen refrigerator, or the counselors randomly ditching camp to shoot up heroin. They have been joined by the nothing-to-sneeze-at likes of Jon Hamm, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Pine, Lake Bell, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, John Slattery, Jordan Peele, Josh Charles, Michaela Watkins, Randall Park, Paul Scheer and Wain. (That’s not counting anyone else who might arrive in the two episodes I’ve yet to see.) This is the comedy generation that shows up to the party; one senses that success may be incidental to their fun.

Now that Mad Men has officially come to a close, Hamm is welcome to do anything he wants, including playing a government assassin who is interested in Camp Firewood for some obscure reason. It was surprising, in 2001, to see that era—the roller-rink, feathered-hair, cock-rock era—held up for simultaneous mockery and delight by my own generation, in a tone that played with the genres of the time. “Dazed and Confused” and “Freaks and Geeks” had given us comedic drama about the seventies and eighties, but “Wet Hot,” like the great “Mr. For the series, they worked on the West Coast instead, filming it in Malibu at Calamigos Ranch, a wedding venue that is also the location for reality series The Biggest Loser. We see Ben and Suzie (Cooper and Poehler) planning a musical to start off the camp season and assessing their relationship, head counselor Beth (Janeane Garofalo) having an affair with the camp owner, Andy (Rudd) trying to score with Katie (Marguerite Moreau) and striking out royally, and mild-mannered chef Gene (Christopher Meloni) excited to marry arts and crafts maven Gail (Molly Shannon). Hamm’s Mad Men co-star shows up as a washed-up New York theater director who takes a shine to Poehler’s Susie, even though she’s still barking up Ben’s tree.

Show” summer-camp sketch, was closer to the loose, bonkers feel of “Airplane!,” combining the mood and aesthetic of movies like “Meatballs,” “Little Darlings,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Gorp” with the absurdity of the nineties sketch-comedy tradition that it came from. While getting nearly every castmember back wasn’t a big deal – Wain says he’d been telling them for years that he wanted to develop another Wet Hot project – working with their busy schedules was definitely a challenge. Of course anyone who remembers the original movie knows that Ben is gay, Beth ends up with a physicist (Hyde Pierce), Andy is cheating on Katie and Gene is a psycho with PTSD from ’Nam. For eight half-hour episodes — the first six of which were provided to press in advance — we watch Poehler, Cooper, Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Marguerite Moreau, Elizabeth Banks, Molly Shannon and more play younger versions of themselves.

The Good Wife star is a counsellor at Camp Tigerclaw, the bougie rich people camp across the lake, who can’t believe his girlfriend Katie (Marguerite Moreau for the original) is slumming with the losers at Camp Firewood. The entire cast—despite fame, schedules, and improbability—returns; happily, it’s a deliriously fun reunion. “First Day of Camp” begins with a scene that mirrors the original: “Jane,” campfire, beer cans, and mayhem. So, they made sure that production was very efficient. “It’s like the thing that Clint Eastwood is famous for as a director, where, if we’re not going to see another inch to the right, you don’t build that set,” says Wain. “And if you’re not going to use the next second of that scene, don’t shoot it. For example, Coop (Showalter) is still in desperate pursuit of a girl, this time played by Lake Bell, in a plot that quickly turns monotonous and should end after one episode. Though it takes place later, you would do well to first watch the film (which is available on Netflix as well), which provides the set-up for some of the series’ jokes.

The camp’s overarching crisis — a conspiracy fueled by the U.S. government — is too silly and off-kilter, even for Showalter and Wain, to garner laughs. The series is an orgy of origin stories, in which characters are comically recontextualized, to use a six-syllable word; but as an actual prelude to the movie, it’s a long gag about prequels. The uptight urban nebbish that Schwartzman usually plays isn’t the type who would want to get down and dirty in the wilderness, but he does a great job here as the head boys counsellor, who discovers some secrets about the camp and then has his life put in danger to try to defend it. A camp movie is nothing without a few romantic interests for the counsellors and Donna is Coop’s (Michael Showalter) girlfriend who just got back from a semester abroad in Israel.

Like the film, the show disregards continuity and basic sense of reason (like Kevin Sussman’s Steve hacking into the government with one click on an ’80s-era computer). The biggest change story-wise is that Coop (co-writer Michael Showalter) has a new love interest, Donna (newcomer Lake Bell), who sends signals so mixed they could cause a train collision. At the same time much of the comedy is quiet, settled in lines that just turn in odd ways: “We’ve been to second base twice so that adds up to fourth, and he is so good at lacrosse.” Or “You may have uncovered the biggest government conspiracy since Watergate, which is about seven years ago.” Or, “It’s the only family I know, other than my own family.” Or “He’s a can of vegetables — he doesn’t have to know.”

There are also several stories featuring the pint-sized campers that will make you chuckle, even if they are the most conventional part of this camp movie. We get to see Ben (Cooper) and McKinley (Michael Ian Black) fall in love pre-tool-shed sex, Susie (Poehler) scream at more children for her musical production (all of which is cast, rehearsed and performed in one day), and Victor (Ken Marino) and Neil (Joe Lo Truglio) up to no good once again.

There is no way that anyone in the cast, some well into their 40s, can get away with playing teens, so the wigs, costumes and makeup they wear make everyone look older rather than younger, playing up the disconnect. Jon Hamm also shows up for a showdown with Gene, guest starring as “President Reagan’s Hired Assassin,” The Falcon. (Anything is worth watching to witness Hamm play a character with that name.) Beyond Hamm, the series also hosts a handful of perfectly cast cameos, from Kristen Wiig as a horny counselor at the preppy version of Camp Firewood next door, Josh Charles and Rich Sommer as douchey jocks, John Slattery as a dignified theater director, “Weird Al” Yankovic as a magician, Chris Pine as a reclusive rock ‘n’ roll genius, Jordan Peele as a newspaper editor and Michaela Watkins as a hip-thrusting choreographer. Josh Charles plays a sneering richie with a triple-popped collar at snobby Camp Tiger Claw. (There, they dance to a jazz orchestra and argue about the sex appeal of Ayn Rand.) Michael Cera plays a lawyer who’s undefeated in public-urination cases. (“They call me Johnny Pisspot!”) Kristen Wiig plays a Tiger Claw socialite. If anything, Netflix reviving a cult classic like “Wet Hot” is proof that pop culture’s revival craze has more potential for giving under-appreciated films and series a second life.

Whether or not you were a fan of the original film, or if you never saw it in the first place, it’s hard to refuse the opportunity to watch Cooper and Black dance in a two-person zoot suit. But if you look at a show like Transparent, which could feel like a six-hour movie if you watched all the episodes at once, there is still an episodic structure to each half-hour block, with a beginning, middle and an end, and common themes among the characters that trace through every episode. Benjamin, whose voice is beloved by fans of “Archer” and “Bob’s Burgers,” plays a camp director—apparently, before Beth (Garofalo) was in charge, he was. “Some of you were campers last year,” he says to the group during a daytime meeting. “But now you’re all sixteen or seventeen years old.” The camera cuts to the group—fortysomethings, a few with paunches and shaggy wigs.

A storyline ends in one episode, and is picked up in the next one right where it left off with our attention shifting from one group of characters to the next. All of the arcs are throughout the whole series – will they perform the musical, will Andy get Katie, etc – rather than progressing through a series of beats in 30-minute chunks.

In the Wain-Showalter universe, fart jokes, and lines like “Hunker down for doinkage,” somehow function as straightforward jokes and satire at once. He’s responsible for lakefront safety but is too concerned with chasing girls to pay attention to the kids—in “Wet Hot,” he makes out with Banks while a kid cruises by, look-Ma-no-hands, in a powerboat.

And, in both films, the love story between Ben and McKinley is tender; it makes fun only of what’s on and around them: tube socks, misconceptions, lightning-bolt leotards, the Zoot suit built for two. At times, though, watching the new people whooping it up alongside the old gang, you feel a twinge of cultural exhaustion—of course this project, now iconic, has to include every fun actor of the past decade.

It’s like night Twitter, where movie stars are riffing with rock stars and comedians and civilians, and everyone’s friends with everyone, and perhaps a little too pleased with themselves about it.

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