Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later Review

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Reunited and it feels so Firewood.

This is a review for all eight new episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later – which premieres Friday, August 4th on Netflix. It’s largely spoiler-free. No original Wet Hot fan ever expected the story to live on that way it did in 2015’s prequel seres, First Day of Camp, but if you did ever find yourself clinging to the hope that we’d visit with the counselors of Camp Firewood again, the natural extension of the story would be this – Ten Years Later[2].

The promise/premise that was planted 16 years ago at the end of the original movie when the characters all agreed to meet up a decade later to for a reunion. So now, to get this series, along with the unexpected prequel run, with the core cast mostly intact is an embarrassment of riches. In fact, while the idea of a reunion naturally feels like a sequel to the 2001 film, this Ten Years Later season actually plays more like a sequel…to the prequel.

If that makes sense. Many of the gags and twists contained within First Day of Camp now naturally extend onward and upward to this new 8-episode run, like “Can of Vegetables” actually being former camp co-owner Mitch (H. Jon Benjamin), Elizabeth Banks’ Lindsay being an undercover reporter, the reveal that Christopher Meloni’s Gene was engaged to Molly Shannon’s Gail and – of course – characters who were introduced in the prequel series like the Camp Tigerclaw gang, Chris Pine’s Eric, and Jason Schwartzman’s Greg.

All of those elements, and more, return for a big early-90s blowout that also includes writer and co-creater Michael Showalter reprising his dual role as both Coop and President Regan. Ten Years Later is a simultaneously sweet and nasty collage of all things Wet Hot. Whereas the first movie was purposeful skewering of ’80s teen sex comedies, the Wet Hot-verse has now become its own ecosystem.

It doesn’t have to actually ape anything except itself. Showalter and co-conspirator/director David Wain (who appears again as his Fist Day goofball Yaron) are masters at bending the joke. Which is to say, you have to know what the conventional cliche is first before you can appreciate how they’re warping it.

And they don’t just bend jokes once. Often you’ll see two or three folds until the gag might actually break entirely. Sometimes it’s amazing and other times it’s…well, less than ideal.

Ten Years Later isn’t as sharp as First Day of Camp and because it’s specifically lampooning itself in a sense, it’s not quite as funny as it has been previously. There’s an unevenness to Ten Years Later that’s a little disheartening, though it’s almost expected in a way since making two seasons out what was supposed to be a one-and-done “lightning in a bottle” comedy from the turn of the century was basically asking too much. The jokes were eventually going to dry up.

First Day of Camp was one of my favorite shows of that year. Ten Years Later is…probably not going to make the list. That’s not to say at all that there aren’t some outrageously funny parts, it’s just that the valleys outnumber the peaks.

Still, pound for pound, the laughs that it does deliver make it well worth your time. Thinking back, I remember the stand-out moments vividly and that ain’t hay. I’d just say that, percentage-wise, the track record is spotty.

But that’s because Wet Hot has the joke-pacing of an animated series. They fly at you pretty fast. As mentioned, the core cast is mostly back for this romp, save for Bradley Cooper who’s been replaced by Adam Scott, who slinks into the Ben role after a few mentions of a nose job having altered his appearance.

Ben and Michael Ian Black’s McKinley, living a dream family life, complete with a newborn, wind up arcing through a Hand that Rock the Cradle storyline (featuring Alyssa Milano as an unhinged nanny) that drags out a bit too long – but then has an amazing, demented payoff in the end! So again, there’s this push and pull of “Oh, this isn’t really working…OKAY THAT WAS FUNNY.” Is Marguerite Moreau’s Katie finally ready to make a move on Coop?

Can Paul Rudd’s “Peaked at Camp” Andy handle the taunts of a new alpha-camper named Deeg (Skyler Gisondo)? Did Amy Poehler’s Suzie actually make it big in showbiz? Will Zak Orth’s J.J. be able to admit his feelings for…Sarah Burns’s Claire?

Okay, so who’s Claire? She was never a counselor, right? And neither was her longtime squeeze Mark (Mark Feuerstein).

Humorously retconned into the story (including a few digitally altered flashbacks), Claire and Mark are new main characters, designed to fill out some of the story where other players, perhaps, slink into the background a little bit (or even vanish altogether for a stretch of episodes). Built into these revival seasons of Wet Hot is the notion that, yes, getting all these actors back for a silly, shoe-string TV series is tough given that many of them now have pretty busy schedules. That hasn’t changed.

In fact, Ten Years Later is the most patchwork outing so far. It can be frustrating, though at the same time the series, as a whole, is such a quasi-meta undertaking that the fact that – say – Joe Lo Truglio’s Neil takes a nap for three episodes is part of the comedic DNA of the story now. Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later

The Verdict When Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Laters strikes oil, it’s a geyser of laughs. Too often though it’s meandering and only moderately funny.

It’s delightful to see all these stars attend what actually seems to be the TV equivalent of silly summer camp, and there is meta comedy to mine from everyone’s shaky shooting schedules, but perhaps like its characters, the Wet Hot saga needs to close up shop and leave its glorious childhood behind.

Editors’ Choice

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