Starring Michael Showalter, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Rudd, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Marguerite Moreau, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by David Wain, written by David Wain and Michael Showalter
IMDB Rating: 6.7
A low-budget character comedy that seems like nothing on the outside, but this apparent cult film was a big stepping stone in the early careers of Hollywood’s favourite movie stars!
Set in Maine in 1981, WHAS follows Camp Firewood’s counsellors on the last day of camp, all with different ends to tie up before they go their separate ways. Stories include camp director Beth (Garofalo) falling for the lonely astrophysicist (Pierce), Susie and Ben (Poehler & Cooper) trying to piece an acting group together to win the evening’s talent show, and the dorky Coop (Showalter) trying to get the girl, his best friend Katie (Moreau), whose eyes belong to bad-boy Andy (Rudd).
I must say, early on in this film I felt like I was forcing myself to laugh. It is obvious from the start that this film will mean a lot more to people who have been to camp (or are American), but early on the jokes just weren’t that funny, and the characters, to me, weren’t very believable. However, the more the film goes on the more you start to understand the characters, and the laughs become more real and believable. I must say though, that a lot of this film is just nonsense. Sure, the characters by the end were believable and the story was fairly cool because of its truthfulness, however I didn’t really click with the truly stupid parts – most notably the trip into town, which just made no sense!
The real pull of WHAS in this age is the incredible cast – if there was a film coming out next year with this line up it would be one of the biggest films of the year! However, in acting terms there’s nothing really special from any of the actors here. Paul Rudd is a very funny man, and is probably the funniest actor in this film. Bradley Cooper, whose acting talents are undisputed nowadays, delivers a nothing performance – mainly because he does nothing. Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino were quite funny in their own story – and on unrelated news, why hasn’t Truglio been given a chance to become more than a C-List actor yet? Other than that the acting is everything you would expect from a cheap comedy.
Most of the time when I say cheap I mean it as an insult, but I don’t really mean that here. Sure, a film looking cheap isn’t a good thing, but I think it adds a sense of truthfulness to the film that you would miss if this was done as a more blockbuster style comedy. Overall I think Wain’s directing is okay on the small budget I assume he had to work with. None of the basic shots are particularly awesome or memorable, but there are some moments where I thought he made it really funny – the ‘throwing the kid out of the moving car’ shot was hilarious!
Overall, this film was generally okay. Some off-the-cuff lines were really funny but I think to really get along with this you have to had gone to a summer camp like this, which I never did (I guess it’s not really a ‘thing’ this side of the pond). It is quite interesting to see all these famous names in the early stages of their career, but other than that you’re not really getting anything special from Wet Hot American Summer.