Viking Night: Wet, Hot American Summer
By Bruce Hall
June 30, 2015
This is what happens when you buy a Jaguar for $5,000.
Let me elaborate. I once had the opportunity to buy a Jaguar XJS for exactly that much money. It was a brilliant shade of emerald green, which I hated. It was a convertible, which I hated. It wasn’t more than six or seven years old, but someone had driven the hell out of it. Nobody knew how many miles were on it because the numbers were worn off the odometer. Yes. It was that kind of car. And you know I wanted it anyway, because it was a fucking Jaguar! For $5,000! Where else was I going to find this kind of a deal (except for every single issue of Auto Trader)? It was so very clean and shiny, and even had a decent sound system. What kind of a glue sniffing moron would sell something like this for nothing?
I was young enough to stop and look. Maybe I even filled out a little paperwork. But I was old enough to know that the real question was “what kind of glue sniffing moron would BUY something like this for nothing?” Sometimes life surprises you, but usually when something looks that much too-good-to-be-true, it absolutely, totally is. So go ahead and buy that car. Buy it and drive off the lot. You know what you did. And when the time comes to pay for it, you will silently sit there in the middle of the intersection, head hung in shame. Because you knew this was coming, and you knew it all along.
You knew that the last time you saw Wet Hot American Summer you didn’t like it, but then you looked at the cast, and saw who was in it. You failed to follow your instincts, and you were disappointed. Damn near the whole cast is in some way successful now. How could it not be good? Sterling Archer plays a can of vegetables! How is that not funny? How is an R-rated comedy with one of the most talented casts ever assembled for a two million dollar film not one of the most celebrated films of all time? What kind of multi-agency government conspiracy has been suppressing this movie for so long?
Well, do you remember that car I was talking about? It’s like that.
I guess I forgot that ‘80s summer camp movies were a thing, but according to Google, I am indeed forgetting that. Fair enough. Wet Hot American Summer is a parody of this (summer camp movies, not my early onset Alzheimer's). Of course there are three kinds of summer camp movies - the ones where a bunch of kids are trying to get laid, the ones where a guy in a hockey mask is splitting those kids open like watermelons, and the ones where both of those things are happening.
This movie lands in category one. Janeane Garofalo plays Beth, the cloistered, busybody director of the fictional Camp Firewood. The theme of the story is "finding that one special someone and boning them before the summer ends, cementing your failure as a person forever". Apparently it the last day of camp, it's 1981, and nobody's had any sex all summer. There are basically 24 hours left to hook up with someone, and ride them like a cowboy. And then, everyone falls happily ever after in love. And someone learns a valuable lesson about believing in yourself, or tolerance or something.