Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Janeane Garafalo (Mystery Men)
David Hyde Pierce (Hellboy)
Michael Showalter (The Ten)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
Michael Ian Black (This is 40)
Zak Orth (Music and Lyrics)
Bradley Cooper (Serena)
A.D. Miles (Role Models)
Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel)
Molly Shannon (Never Been Kissed)
Ken Marino (Veronica Mars)
Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad)
Amy Poehler (Mean Girls)
Marisa Ryan (Cold Hearts)
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games)
Kevin Sussman (The Big bang Theory)
H. Jon Benjamin (Not Another Teen Movie)
Lake Bell (No Strings Attached)
Jason Schwartzman (Bored to Death)
Samm Levine (I Love You, Beth Cooper)
John Slattery (Ted 2)
Chris Pine (Star Trek)
Jon Hamm (Man Men)
Michael Cera (Scott Pilgram vs The World)
Kristen Wiig (paul)
Jayma Mays (Ugly Betty)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp – the Netflix prequel series to 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer that we never knew we desperately wanted – is very funny. In fact, it’s freakin’ hilarious for uber-fans of the original. I can only assume it’s mildly amusing to those who’ve either never seen the movie or saw it and weren’t fans.The thing about it though is it’s really tethered to the movie. This is a prequel series made under extreme prequel rules. Not only is it specifically designed to be watched afterward, but many of the jokes won’t land if you don’t know what lies ahead come the “last day of camp.” Quick non-spoilery example: Comedian “Alan Shemper” is mentioned (perhaps I should have put comedian in quotes instead) and the young counselors of Camp Firewood freak out with excitement. Why? Well, the movie pre-answered that. And that’s just one of many instances that indicate that, despite this being a hyped-up Netflix Original event, you need to watch the movie.
Now, the original Wet Hot American Summer came with a loaded cast, many of whom went on to become even more famous than they were when the movie was released. One of the gateway jokes for the prequel is that everyone, in real life, is much older, but now they’re playing even younger versions of the characters they portrayed in the original. And it was even a stretch back then that they were playing teenagers. In fact, this “old teenager” gag was part of the original’s charm as well. Here, the joke isn’t as much of a joke as you’d think. Most everyone has held up fairly well. Noticeably older, sure, but not hilariously so. In fact, the only time it feels like a goof is whenever Showalter shows up as Coop, as he’s really the one who’s, let’s say, a much different shape than he used to be.
So let’s talk about the cast. Again, this was an impressive ensemble back in 2001. And everyone’s back. Showalter, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Marguerite Moreau, Zak Orth, Christopher Meloni, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, and many more. Even director Wain has a recurring role this time around. And while it must have been difficult to get everyone back given people’s busy schedules, Wet Hot American Summer is set up to be an accommodating side/pet project. As in, it’s not often that all the characters interact, and most of the time they’re paired off and go about their separate stories. The actors weren’t as famous back in 2001, but that movie was still filmed super quick and designed to section people away from each other into different threads.
Now, some characters, given the rising careers of the actors who played them back in the original, have somewhat of an expanded presence. It’s understandable. For example, both Banks and Poehler have a lot more screen time here than they ever did in the movie. But this is also now a four-hour story, so there’s room for this type of change-up. And one of the best things this series does is create zany, clever origin stories for beloved elements from the movie. Not just characters, like Meloni’s Gene and Banks’ Lindsey, but actual things. Songs. Characteristics. Odd in-jokes. They all get a “beginning.” The way Poehler’s Susie came to be so hard on auditioners. The reason David Hyde Pierce’s Henry summers by the camp. The empty vegetable can voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. The freakin’ “Higher and Higher” song! All these things are given a backstory.
And this series didn’t just manage to get back its original cast. There are also guest stars galore. Doing some amazing, quirky things here. Jon Hamm as a government assassin, Chris Pine as a mysterious hermit who lives on the camp grounds, Michael Cera as a ambulance-chasing lawyer given the case of a lifetime, Lake Bell as Coop’s “mixed signals” girlfriend. Hamm’s not even the only Mad Men’er around as John Slattery recurs as a “renowned” theater director and Rich Sommer stooges for Josh Charles’ snobby Camp Tiger Claw counselor Blake. Camp Tiger Claw which — instead of being a badass, evil Cobai Kai-type commune like the name suggests — has a “blue blood country club from the 50s vibe,” including evening socials that involve dancing the foxtrot.
Like the film, First Day of Camp takes place over the course of one day. And similar story beats and lunacy are employed. There are strained romances (Rudd’s Andy trying to fart his way into Moreau’s Katie’s heart, Coop wondering if Lake Bell’s Donna is faithful), a stressful stage production that has one day to come together for a nighttime performance (here it’s new wave musical “Electro City”), and a doomsday crisis that Garofalo’s Beth must avert in order to save the camp. There’s even a spectacular Victor Pulak chase scene. So the actual structure of the original is upheld.
es, I’d say that you definitely need to be a fan of the original Wet Hot American Summer movie to enjoy all First Day of Camp has to offer. The entire thing’s a love letter to itself and it’s wonderful. It’s great to see everyone back as well as all the new faces.