As far as cult classics go, you really can’t do much better than 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer. The film featured many alumns of MTV’s The State, an absolutely brilliant sketch comedy show, and it centered on the last day of summer camp, set at a Maine camp in 1981. In some ways, it’s a sendup of other summer camp flicks like Meatballs, but it’s also just really bizarre and amazing. The movie was barely released in theaters, but it found a following on DVD, and director David Wain talked about doing a prequel for some time.
The idea of that actually happening seemed tough, mainly because many of the actors in the original movie have gone on to superstardom, including Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, and Bradley Cooper. Would all of these big names really commit to doing a follow-up to a project they did when they were first starting out?
It turns out they would.
The entire cast of the original, and many other big names like Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, and Weird Al Yankovic (!) signed on for the prequel series: 8 episodes of TV genius, now streaming on Netflix.
Many of these actors were far too old to be playing teenagers in 2001, and now they’re playing slightly younger versions of themselves 15 years later. It’s preposterous, but it works, in part because they all still look pretty youthful. Yes, there is one actor who stands out because he looks different, but honestly, can we blame the guy for, ya know, aging like a normal human being?
Not only are all of the original actors back, but so is the spirit and sensibility of the movie. This time around, the focus is on the first day of camp, and we get some backstory on the characters from the movie. How did McKinley and Ben get together? Has Gail always been so quick to fall in love? And how did there come to be a sentient can of vegetables? Sure, these are not burning questions that fans had been clamoring for answers to. But the series handles them in stride, and never takes a single origin story too seriously. I’m not sure how much people who haven’t seen the movie would appreciate these things, but if you’re able to commit to watching 8 half hour episodes on Netflix, you can also watch the 97 minute movie, also available on Netflix.
And yes, you should watch the movie and the series, as they are both damn close to comedic perfection.