Call this year's Sundance Film Festival the festival of summer camp movies, for after Happy Campers and this flick, audience members started to get the urge to sing Koom-Bai-Yah. But while Happy Campers was a movie for 12-year-olds with 25-year-old themes, Wet Hot American Summer is a movie for 25-year-olds with 12-year-old themes. Feeling like a blend of Saturday Night Live and The State, Wet Hot summer never truly gets off the ground or out of TV territory. There are spatters of truly dark and bizarre comedy throughout, which gives an indication that the film will take off in an original direction, but as the film wears on it drifts closer and closer to the same old same old, resorting to easy endings and predictable set pieces.Janeane Garofalo deals out a fine performance as the camp director with a crush on a local astrophysics nut, but simply put, she's too good for this material. David Hyde Pierce essentially plays his Frasier role all over again, as a slightly stuck up, slightly insane intellectual type. Paul Rudd is completely wasted, though occasionally funny, as a ladies man camp counselor, and the rest are just blah.
If a similar film hadn't been playing at this festival alongside Wet Hot American Summer, it might have escaped unfavourable comparison with others of its genre, but the simple fact of the matter is that this isn't a patch on Happy Campers - and that wasn't a great film in itself. As a modern day update of the Meatballs theme, Wet Hot American Summer falls badly short of the mark. Some characters are simply puzzling, and the ending is trite in the extreme, but as a rainy day video or a made for Comedy Central TV movie, it would be a fine thing.But that's no bonus. As a feature film, the few bright spots in Wet Hot American Summer will leave the average viewer feeling eight bucks and 90 minutes worse off.