Wet Hot American Summer Blu-ray review
It’s the end of summer 1981 and Camp Firewood is about to close its doors until the start of summer 1982. That means that the fires will rage higher, the music will play louder and the sleeping bags will knock harder, all in the name of one last hurrah.
Camp Firewood is host to a number of questionable characters, all of whom are in charge of the hopeless youths. They include: camp director Beth (Janeane Garofalo, MYSTERY MEN), who is trying to express her love to science professor Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce, whose turn on FRASIER had already earned him three Emmys); counselor Coop (Michael Showalter, one-third of the comedy troupe Stella), who has pined for the attractive Katie (Marguerite Moreau, THE MIGHTY DUCKS), who herself dates perhaps the biggest sleazeball at camp, Andy (Paul Rudd, 200 CIGARETTES); chef Gene (Christopher Meloni, HBO’s OZ), a Vietnam vet who engages in conversation with a can of mixed vegetables; and Susie (Amy Poehler, the same year she would join the cast of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE) and Ben (Bradley Cooper, in his debut), who are entirely too enthusiastic about the upcoming talent show. This is a camp that could have greatly benefited from a downsizing (perhaps through the method popularized at Camp Crystal Lake?).
There isn’t much of a story to WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. Instead, it’s a series of minor “plots” involving connected characters trying to get laid before summer is over. It’s partly a cheap sendup of movies like DAZED AND CONFUSED, MEATBALLS and PORKY’S (released the same year WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER takes place), told through a collection of weak sketches lumped together.
WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER is written by David Wain (another third of Stella) and Showalter, whose MTV sketch comedy series THE STATE ran from 1993 to 1995, and directed by Wain. Since a number of THE STATE alumni show up in the movie—in addition to Showalter, Michael Ian Black (the final third of Stella), Ken Marino and Joe Lo Truglio appear—the movie would surely be a draw for fans, who must have been bent on turning the movie, like THE STATE, into a cult following. (The following ended up being stable enough for Netflix to greenlight a series, due out in summer 2015.)
Those that did not care for THE STATE’s sense of humor or found that the oversized cast tried too hard will draw negative conclusions about WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. There are times that it seems like Wain and company have made it their goal to turn off as many viewers outside of the circle. This does no good to potential recruits.
And so WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER is a tremendous dud. It’s like the summer camp you’ve heard so much about but want out of quickly once it’s discovered that all the games are the same and everyone on the grounds, from counselor to cook, is a complete jackass.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec.. This high-definition transfer offers an overall clean look, with strong details, a variety of colors and accurate tones for the duration. Fans of WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER should be pleased overall with the look of the movie’s Blu-ray debut.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; English Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles in English and French. Dialogue is clear and the soundtrack (featuring KISS, Loverboy and more) comes through relatively nicely.
10th Anniversary Event Highlights (31:33): This footage shows clips from the 10th anniversary event, held in Brooklyn in 2001. This addition might be a minor disappointment to fans, as only a portion of the cast—Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and Janeane Garofalo being the biggest names—are featured.
WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: Live at SF Sketchfest (44:17): A handful of cast members, as well as some special guests (including David Cross, Busy Phillips and more), participate in a live script reading.
Feature commentary with director/co-writer David Wain, co-writer Michael Showalter and actress Janeane Garofalo: Wain, Showalter and Garofalo cover a lot of material in this track, which will definitely be worthwhile to fans. (Another available “commentary” is the Soundtrack with Extra Farts.)
Behind the Scenes (15:38) collects on-set footage, which guides viewers behind the scenes of WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER.
Cast Comments (8:02) can be viewed separately or as a whole. The contributors are: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Marguerite Moreau, Michael Showalter and David Wain.
Deleted Scenes (12:09): Collected here are a handful of scenes nixed from the final cut. They don’t add much to the story or characters, but will be of interest to fans. Available with optional commentary by Wain.
Songs with Production Stills (11:09): “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Summer in Ameirca,” “Wet Hot American Summer” (again) and “Higher and Higher” are featured.