The video release of another 2001 independent film, which also has not been screened here, offers a much more lighthearted look at youth. "Wet Hot American Summer," conceived by Michael Showalter and David Wain of MTV's "The State," sets out to spoof the summer-camp film genre. Unfortunately, this slight piece of fluff is less a parody and more a poor imitation of such comedies as "Meatballs" and "Caddyshack."
Directed by Wain, "Wet Hot American Summer" pitches its tent at Camp Firewood in the summer of '81. The camp is populated with stock characters: the nerdy teen (Showalter) who is set upon stealing the heart of the camp hottie (Margeurite Marceau) from her unfaithful jerk of a boyfriend (Paul Rudd); the camp director (Janeane Garofalo) who has a hankering for the astrophysicist (David Hyde-Pierce) residing in a neighboring cabin; and the deranged Vietnam-vet camp cook (Chris Meloni) who holds private conversations with a can of peas. An assortment of other oddball characters fills out the bunks, providing little more than unfunny one-liners.
Wain and Showalter have fashioned what looks more like a series of cast-off sketches than a movie. The film has no buildup, no momentum, and unfortunately, no true laughs.
Surprisingly, the DVD's addition of deleted scenes shows some truly funny moments that were left on the cutting-room floor. The omitted opening scene of a camp counselor walking through the campers' bunk house sporting an abnormally large piece of morning wood is juvenile, but also extremely funny. If that level of crass humor could have been established and maintained throughout the film, the project might have had a chance.
The DVD includes several special features that are first rate for such a minor movie. There are extensive biographies of everyone involved in the production; an audio commentary with Showalter, Wain and Garofalo; cast interviews; a deleted-scenes reel; a behind-the-scenes look at the filming; a photo slideshow set to four of the songs from the soundtrack, and a bizarre audio track that includes extra fart noises.
Making a parody of a film genre that in itself is so over the top takes expert craftsmanship, something that Wain and Showalter were not able to provide. Instead, the film is like watching someone else's home movies from summer camp. Unless you were there in the first place, you really won't get it and probably could care less.