126 – The one about Wet Hot American Summer

Welcome to episode 126. Today, we talk about Wet Hot American Summer!

The setting is Camp Firewood, the year 1981. It’s the last day before everyone goes back to the real world, but there’s still a summer’s worth of unfinished business to resolve. At the center of the action is camp director Beth, who struggles to keep order while she falls in love with the local astrophysics professor. He is busy trying to save the camp from a deadly piece of NASA’s Skylab which is hurtling toward earth. All that, plus: a dangerous waterfall rescue, love triangles, misfits, cool kids, and talking vegetable cans. The questions will all be resolved, of course, at the big talent show at the end of the day.

Join Scott, Randy, Brian and Ibbott as they can’t seem to get over that hay in the road.

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37 thoughts on “126 – The one about Wet Hot American Summer

  1. Hey Guys, love the show, but HAD to write this response:

    I had to stop listening 40 minutes into the episode because of how unanimously off-base you all were about this film, IMHO. I actually just re-watched it with my wife last summer in Manhattan in the theater for it’s 10th anniversary. Michael Showalter, David Wain, Jake Fogelnest, and Jason Reitman (son of Ivan–director) were all in attendance; they did a Q&A after the screening. The audience of approximately 500 roared consistently at the dozens of gut-busting jokes. They then screened it the following night in Brooklyn to another sold out, passionate crowd.

    I really feel that this is a case of you guys, yes all of you, not getting it. The movie is not supposed to be Porky’s or Airplane as you said it failed at both. It is it’s own genre of comedic brilliance—almost like a camp movie from another dimension. Like when the woman says to Janeane Garofalo, “I need some lube……(whispering) it’s for my pussy,” that isn’t a parody of camp movies. It’s more of a “imagine how insane it would be if this happened.” Same with the gay sex scene between M.I.B. and Bradley Cooper. They are taking 80′s summer films and throwing a wrench of insanity into it, as opposed to “Scream” or “Not Another Teen Movie,” where they just make joke after joke specifically targeting the style.

    However, my biggest problem of all is you guys giving comedic advice to:
    Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler, and Judah Friedlander—all veteran heavyweights in the comedy scene. You guys are funny at times on your shows, but nowhere near the skill level of the aforementioned, and really have no place critiquing comedy techniques. If you said, “we didn’t think this was funny,” or “I just didn’t get it,” that would be one thing, but you were giving actual comedic delivery advice. You are not comedians, so I just don’t see how you felt justified in that.

    I understand you guys have the right to not like a film and say it isn’t funny, but once you broadcast those feelings, you have to agree that others have the right to express their disagreement with those thoughts.

    In conclusion, when Randy said, “Skylab crashed in 1979 by the way; this is set in 1981,” my suspicions were confirmed that you were viewing this movie through the wrong lens. Part of the humor is that they don’t care when Skylab crashed. Most of the cast was born in the 60′s and most likely knew this fact; it makes it funnier that this movie was set two years AFTER Skylab crashed: that’s part of the joke.

    That’s it.

    Matt

    • Haven’t listened yet but “uh…wow”- Randy’s actually correcting when Skylab crashed? Really???? It came down in the late 70s – who cares…THAT IS THE JOKE! They could’ve done a Mt St Helens or South American killer bees gag, it’s all the same nonsense (though he’d probably correct that as well- “Well actually they’re called African killer bees”). If you guys didn’t even get this movie (and what up with that?) should I even bother listening to this episode? AIRPLANE doesn’t hold up people, sorry to impart the news. PORKY’S, only if you’re an 11-year-old boy.

      Comedic advice to these awesome and influential comedians from this crew? That alone might be worth a listen.

      Fave line in the movie: “Beth if your going to town could you pick me up some lube? My husband’s coming over. [whispers} “For my p#$$&.”

      • Comedy is based in reality. This move wasn’t.

        Getting the history on this movie wrong took me out of the movie. There are a few flaws in the history of this movie. Skylab for one, there was a character dress like Bruce Springsteen era 1984, and I’m not 100% sure that Loverboy was on the radio back in summer of 81 (they had their first hit in 81).

        I was a Camp Counselor in training, and the premise of this movie was stupid. You have 1-3 events a day, not a dozen, and on the last day? Counsellors are busy all day with the kids, and don’t have time to run to town for an hour, and lie around planning to “get with” someone. Counsellors party after the kids are in bed (a couple of staff members get to watch the kids sleep).

        • This is making fun of camp movies, it has no basis in reality because what it’s commenting on is camp MOVIES which are not real. This has nothing to do with reality.

  2. Ho boy. I haven’t listened to it yet, but based on the 2nd comment, something tells me I disagree with you guys as well. Although I did find the movie to be gut busting, I watched it for the first time recently and thought it is pretty good. I hope you won’t say it is because it needs to be watched with a crowd, I watched it by my lonesome. I wonder why you guys didn’t find it was funny?

    • So you guys keep comparing this movie to Meatballs and Stripes and Porky’s. This isn’t one of those kinds of movies…. I think just because it takes place at a summer camp you all made certain assumptions that were just totally off base. This was completely over the top comedy. Everything was taken to an extreme level, WAY before that was the norm. Family Guy came out the year before right? It wasn’t as crazy over the top as it is now. I lost my point. I have no idea what you guys are talking about. Scott Johnson! I hear what you’re saying, but you are COMPLETELY WRONG.

      Also, Airplane! does totally hold up.

  3. I am very scared to listen to this podcast. I usually agree with you guys, but by the way you talked at the end of ep125, I feel there might be a huge divide on your opinions and mine with this film. It’s really hard to dissect and be critical of comedies, especially ones specifically meant to be absurd, so I will be taking your opinions with a grain of salt, if only to suppress my enraged disagreement. I love this show btw, and you won’t be losing this listener anytime soon, even if I am about to listen to you destroy one of my favorite comedies. I still want to make a sweater from Randys beard… shout out to an old Quickfire Question(aka “Quibuhkuhbuh!”) of mine you read in ’09 on the Instance.

    p.s. How many DvD’s can you name that has a specific commentary track, containing only fart noises, placed at opportune times? Just one. This one, baby.

  4. Yep, you guys were way off on this one. I’m a long time listener, and I normally love all the commentary, but it’s like you all were on a completely different wavelength when watching this. I was already cringing a bit when you mentioned you were going to be watching the film; it’s intentionally off for the sake of being absurd, and the typical Film Sack approach is a very skewed and overly serious view to take when witnessing the absurdity. Scott’s pessimistic comedic taste and Randy’s matter-of-fact comments were pointlessly critical of things that the makers purposefully did not care about, and in many cases were entirely off base.
    First time I couldn’t stand to listen through a whole episode…

  5. One thing you guys have to realize is that Randy is the Wildhammer Fact Checker of the show: he simply can’t ignore things like when Skylab crashed. But I do have to counterpoint him; the astrophysicist specifically said it was a “rogue piece” of Skylab :D

    I think I’m seeing a bit of fanboyism in some of these posts. You gotta cut the guys some slack. They’ve said numerous times in the past that they feel kinda funny Sacking a comedy; and gave the impression several times in this episode that they felt like they weren’t getting the movie and should have enjoyed it more. This was just the wrong movie for Filmsack.

    I didn’t think it was awesome, but I enjoyed my time. I’d watch it again if someone brought it up. Some of the talk about comedic timing or delivery is fair points, however. Often in this movie the joke was that the joke is not funny…but that’s not always funny. Pedophilia isn’t that funny. When I thought the joke was that the 12 year old kid was some kind of life coach, it was hilarious. But when he ran off with her at the end it kind of broke the joke.

    The softball team calling out the trope right there in the middle of the movie and basically pre-Sacking it is HILARIOUS, but once you’ve seen ahead to where that joke ends, it feels like belaboring the point to watch it play out. In fact the whole “ehh we’re not into it” is itself a comedy cliche.

    finally, the dude and the chick at the end: It’s funny that she is admitting to everyone that she is a caricature of a shallow chick with a crap boyfriend, but it’s not funny to laugh at Coop’s emotional pain, especially since that was one of only two ‘real’ things that were set up in the beginning of the movie for us to root for. I can appreciate the artistry of the expected trope that didn’t happen it without enjoying how it plays. On the other hand, it was a strangely appropriate anticlimax.

  6. I hadn’t seen this movie before and I had some issues with it, but not the same issues you guys had. I didn’t think it was anything like Stripes or Meatballs, so I don’t think it was a very fair comparison. To me it seemed more like Dazed and Confused – ensemble cast, set a generation ago, with the period music and fashion to remind us that it was set in a time before now. And quite honestly, I enjoyed it more than Dazed and Confused, which I never really figured out the point of.

    There was a lot going for this movie, but unfortunately, I think the comedy just wasn’t funny enough. There were some good bits in it, but there were a few where it seemed they were trying too hard to be funny. The gag with the hay bale in the road struck me as the kind of thing you might see in a high school kid’s YouTube video. The scene where Janeane Garofalo was running through the office freaking out and breaking stuff was … just bad.

    But I don’t think the movie really failed at anything it set out to do. I never got the impression it was trying to be Porky’s or Meatballs. It felt more like a long SNL skit, or, perhaps, as you said, a series of skits. But unlike a lot of Filmsack movies, the story moves along at a decent pace, and with the exception of the training montage and maybe Gene’s speech in the cafeteria, nothing really feels like it lingers too long. Unlike Dazed & Confused, you’re never really unsure what the movie’s about. And unlike Dazed & Confused, there’s no Affleck.

    It had its issues and in my opinion was no great film. But at the end of the day, there are a lot of Filmsack movies I’d rank below this one on the list of movies I’d watch again.

  7. Wow, long time listener and I must say this is episode was incredibly disappointing. You missed the whole point and style of the film. It wasn’t meant to be anything like Porky’s or Meatballs, but a surrealist parody film. If you watch this “troupe’s” work like the State or Children’s Hospital you know what kind of movie your getting. Now I don’t tune in every week just to hear my views on a film validated, but Scott trying to convince the group this was anywhere near the terribleness of Retrograde is ridiculous.

    The tone should have been obvious right from the get go. The first time Coop yells to Katie, his love interest “I want you inside me” should have clued you in. I think this also might be an age thing. I just graduated high school when this movie was released and it was a consistent favorite around our college campus. Maybe it was a reflection of the type of comedy we weren’t getting in mainstream film yet as more realistic teen comedies like American Pie dominated the zeitgeist.

    Anyways love the show, you make my daily hour long drive to the toy factory a fun one.

  8. This has to rank in the top 10 of worst movies I have ever watched. I found most if not all the humor in this movie sub-par and lacking the right delivery. Ever joke/skit felt forced. It seemed it was trying to be everything to everyone and ended up failing.

    If the movie would have stuck with and went down the path of losing, killing the campers I would have found that entertaining.

    Also I will say that this probably would have been a better movie if i watched it with a bunch of my friends, a lot of alcohol and muted, so that we could have laughed at how utterly ridiculous this movie was.

  9. This is the only Film Sack I ever had to stop listening to because I disagreed so violently with them. Even though they overrated Breakfast Club I went along to the end of it but in this movie it’s clear they don’t even understand what the intention is. It’s pointless to say a surrealistic comedy isn’t realistic. By definition it isn’t realistic, that’s the intention. That’s like saying the Dark Knight Rises had too much Batman, it’s the point of the endeavor.

  10. I seem to have listened to a different episode of Film Sack than most people commenting here (assuming they’ve listened at all). In the episode on WHAS I heard, at least two of the hosts called the movie “okay,” and the other two at least admitted to and described parts that made them laugh. Respect was paid to most of the actors, with a good amount of time spent discussing their various accomplishments. When something was described as unfunny, a good amount of time and consideration was devoted to explaining why that conclusion was reached.

    I realize that practically every movie Film Sack covers (aside from the most obscure ones) will be in some listener’s top five favorite films of all time, and invariably those people will show up to complain about even the most benign criticisms of it, but….damn. Maybe Film Sack *shouldn’t* do any more comedies, because apparently failing to be amused by something that some listeners consider high comedy is some kind of mortal sin. Last I checked, it’s still just a matter of taste. Lighten up, geez!

    Btw, this movie got a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes according to the critics, and 80% from the audience. Maybe our FS hosts are just more like the critics than the audience on this one…and not crazy, ignorant, dense, or whatever weirdly passionate ways people here are describing them.

    • To be fair to the commenters’ concerns, Mr. Johnson does claim that the movie is worse than Retrograde. Although he kinda retracts that statement, he still holds that it’s down there with Retrograde, which in Film Sack standards is giving it a really low mark.

      Of course, the part I’m baffled by continuously is how much Retrograde gets dragged through the mud all the time. It’s a bad movie, but it’s somehow been elevated to the pinnacle of movie failure in Film Sack history. I’ve been much more horrified by other movies since it. Why, just the words “Hudson” and “Hawk” together make my hair turn white in shock, but that one is always glossed over when bad movies in Film Sack history are recounted.

      I haven’t seen Wet Hot American Summer so I really can’t comment on the Film Sack crew’s aptitude in Sacking it. From what I can tell, though, both how the podcast and the movie’s fans have described, it’s not really a comedy for my taste, so I probably couldn’t ever pass judgment on it.

  11. Yeah, I’ve been listening since the very first episode of Film Sack, and this is the first one where I was truly surprised how badly the boat was missed.

    You can not like the movie if you don’t like the humor or the subject matter. I’m fine with that, always have been. But when you completely don’t realize that it’s a parody that is in no way taking itself seriously, that leaves me faithless in the crew, my podcast friends. (yeah, I said friends)

    And it’s little things like the filmmakers making fun of late ’70s & early ’80s camp movie tropes: things like time leaps (the campers on the waterfall – very clevely parodied), the stunt double with bad hair of the dude on a bike (pretty funny), the purposeful continuity errors (making fun of the bad continuity in those films), the poking a big stick at the blatant stereotypes throughout the film (there was never any real investment in these cartoon characters – it was all parody)… all of these big comic attempts (regardless if they were funny or not), were not even recognized as attempts to be parody. That’s the troubling part.

    In many ways, this was a terrible film to Film Sack, because it is the perfect representation OF “Film Sack.” It is a film that picks apart all the bad things in those genre of movies. It shows us (almost) ALL of the tropes of those bad films. It makes fun of all of that bad filmmaking. (Sometimes the jokes work, sometimes they don’t.)

    So it’s not a comedy in the sense of “Meatballs” and “Porky’s” of course. Comparison to those films is … well… come on, guys.

    Comparing it to “Airplane” is closer, but still off the mark a bit, as the Zucker crew went for straight camp and silliness and this film used its comedic actors better to mock the stereotypes and tropes of the summer camp genre.

    Anyway… I am a loyal listener. I was just a bit caught off guard when no one seemed to understand what the filmmakers were attempting (regardless if they were successful or not). Step it up, you knuckleheads. ;)

  12. I watched this last night in preparation to listen to the podcast today. I thought it was a big, steaming pile of poo.

    The jokes were, for the most part unfunny and forced.

    Also, I have never liked Garafalo (or however you spell her name), so having her in the main lead definitely detracted from the film for me.

  13. I said it on the show. I’ll say it in the comments. This film sacked itself. Which made it durn near impossible to find a clever way to look at this movie without sounding like an ass or like we didn’t get the joke.

    I thought the movie was visually appealing. Especially the opening credits. I love the music. I thought some scenes were fantastic. I thought some of the skits were hilarious. But the movie was never tied together which meant poor payoffs on the big jokes or running jokes. That is the difference between watching a comedy and watching a series of skits.

    I am a huge fan of The State (especially Showalter) and have love for the entire cast and their different styles of comedy. A lot of comedic talent in that film. But we are in the business of looking at films with a critical eye. That’s the sacking part.

    Sometimes we are funny and sometimes we are not. But it’s less about being funny and more about a group of geeks, not unlike yourselves, getting together and doing something they love. Watching movies we suspect could be crappy and pointing out the absurd when we see it.

    Glad this movie and sacking got people so excited. I love seeing lots of comments. Good and bad. It means you care! I love you too.

  14. Thought I’d chime in too. I’m glad that all the comments here were civil. I had to stop listening to this episode as well. Normally I love film sack and would never tune out but it seems there was a disconnect of taste and understanding of this film between myself and the hosts. That being said I wanted to put into perspective the vocal disappointment with this episode.

    Firstly this film wasn’t trying to resurrect Porky’s and Stripes. It was trying to create a absurd film with elements of satire. This makes a lot of the comedy high minded and overly complex. The film is full of call backs, and self referential treatment. I believe this is where the critique missed the boat.

    Secondly the fan base for Wet Hot American Summer is rampant. This is definitely a cult comedy that I hope some day becomes as big as Caddyshack. (I’m kidding myself I know.) Also the people who love Wet Hot American Summer love it because the punchlines hit for them not because the movie itself was bad.
    The film is so beloved that as someone mentioned above, at SF comedy fest the entire cast did a live reading to a sold out crowd. So this film is kind of a big deal when it comes to contemporary comedy. It’s strange that this ended up in the Film Sack que, but then again it’s not my show. With the combination of the above it’s no surprise the amount of comments this show is getting.

    That being said no film is for everyone, I know plenty of people that don’t like Wet Hot American Summer. Hell my best friend hates Will Ferrel and Anchorman. No big deal. Taste is subjective and if we’re rational we have to be okay with that. It’s not “your fault you didn’t get it.” This film just didn’t reach you and that’s on the filmmakers. Anyone getting “violently” upset (I hope you didn’t break anything) is just being silly.

    Thanks for the great show. I look forward to listening to the whole episode next week.

  15. This movie was an absolutely miserable attempt at parody. I can get that some of you think it’s absolutely hilarious. I 100% agree with the hosts of Film Sack. It was forced, unfunny and stupid-but-not-good-stupid humor. It is possible to do stupid humor and parody well. This film doesn’t do any of it well.

    • Agree with Melanie. Never saw this movie before Film Sack. I 100% agree with the Film Sack crew. This movie was one long poorly executed SNL skit.

  16. Love that you guys sacked this movie, I don’t love it like many do, but it does have a soft place in my heart, becuase I was a counselor at the camp it was filmed at the summer of 2001. It was filmed at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, PA, a very Jewish summer camp. The camp owners made a big deal of the filming as it was happening, but once they saw the product, they hated it. They were expecting a funny family film, but got some pretty raunchy, off the wall stuff instead. Needless to say, they don’t show the film at the camps “Friday Night Flicks”.

    As a side note, Hank Azaria went to this camp as a kid. Totally surreal sleeping in the same bunkbed where he scrawled his name many years before.

  17. I agreed with the boys on this one. Movie was boring and the pod cast was great. I had tears in my eyes when Scott told the story of this yam bag hanging out of his shorty shorts in his T-ball picture. How does one forget to wear underwear anyway?

  18. I have never seen this movie before, but had to watch it after listening to the podcast, and seeing these comments. I think that the move is actually pretty funny. There are some jokes that do fall a little flat, like the whole Molly Shannon bit. Other parts had me laughing out loud. It is obviously supposed to be way over the top, and absurd. I mean the whole motorcycle chase was just great. If you want to see a failed attempt at absurd comedy, watch Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star, or Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Wet Hot American Summer, IMO delivered more than I expected, and I’ll probably watch it again with some friends.

  19. To steal a quote from Scott. “This movie was a giant steaming pile of poo.” I am not a fan of Garofalo. For some reason I think he breath smells like a green tea wheat grass dandelion shake. I was waiting for David Hyde Pierce to end up being Chester the Molester. I could not get past his shorts and moustache. To each his own. I understand that many think this movie is hilarious however, I did not laugh once and I tend to like stupid humor.

    • Agreed. I recently started rewatching South Park from season 1 on. I’m still laughing. I’m can only guess that those who find this movie funny just never saw the dozens of movies that preceeded it or maybe don’t watch much comedy. Listen to Louis CK talking about his daughter coming into the bathroom (while he’s using the toilet) and crapping herself. It’s about 4 minutes and it’s worth a dozen of this entire movie.

  20. By the way, wanted to say a huge thank you for telling the next few movies you plan to Sack – I don’t always have time during some weeks to watch the movies, but now when I do I can watch one or 2 and be ahead of the curve :-)

  21. I’ve been listening to this podcast for a long time. I expect some things to go over Scott’s head. That’s part of what I like about his persona. Alas, I was hoping for Randy or one of the Brians to step up in this episode and defend the movie for what it is: a hilarious deconstruction of well-known tropes and film production techniques. Sure, there were plenty of bits that didn’t work (The screaming/smashing scene, Molly Shannon, etc), but there were plenty that did.

    Ultimately, it wasn’t a “great” movie. It *was* just a collection of skits, loosely tied together.

    Why did they crash into a tree? Who did David Hyde Pierce hand his trophy to, just out of frame? They gay sex scene “played straight”?! …that *was* the joke!

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I’ll have to make my own podcast now so I can talk about how awesome this movie was.

  22. I absolutely love the podcast, but absolutely disagree with just about everything said about this movie! I rewatched it the other day just to verify if I was crazy for having loved it. I was watching with headphones on my phone while having my oil changed and I felt like an idiot because I was laughing out loud constantly. I think Wain’s sense of humor is just so off the wall and sometimes in the screwball arena that maybe it eludes some people. I typically agree with a lot of your opinions on other films, but to say this may be the worst movie you’ve reviewed yet? Blasphemy! I kept checking to see if it was April 1st or something and I was being messed with. As for some of the points, one was made about the show performance being too professional for a camp production, that’s the freaking point! It’s supposed to be a stupid idea from the get go, having to prepare a talent show performance in one day and having it be that challenging. And the sex scene between Black and Cooper, I think that is the only genuine moment in the movie where I don’t think they were going for laughs. Anyway, I need to go because I have to finish my re-viewing. Keep up the great podcasts and I will keep seeing if I agree or not! Thanks!

  23. Hey guys a lot of other people who love this movie as much as I do already made all of the points I wanted to cover I’ll just add a quick thing.

    Brian you said, “This film sacked itself. Which made it durn near impossible to find a clever way to look at this movie without sounding like an ass or like we didn’t get the joke.” Exactly! Please do not put yourselves in this position again. This isn’t Filmspotting. You aren’t in the business of reviewing new films that haven’t hit the culture yet, films that could be good or bad. It seems to me that you are reviewing films that are so bad that they are good, so bad that 4 reasonably funny guys can make fun of them in an entertaining way or films from the past that you are sentimental about. This film does not fit any of those categories, in fact it holds a special place in the hearts of many people a generation or two younger than you guys. Could you imagine a grouchy roundtable of four 65 year olds complaining about Bill Murray eating poop in Cadddyshack? I’m sorry but to many of us this is what you sounded like!

    I love you guys, stick to reviewing what you love or true certified crap.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  24. Film Sack: Here is some love.
    I saw all of these comments and felt I should say something. I agree with you. In some ways, I think you took it easy on this film. I watched this recently because Kristen Bell called it a movie she could watch over-and-over. A serious favorite. I saw the cast and thought: this should be good.
    I DID NOT LAUGH ONCE.
    Let me qualify that. Going into town and doing all that crap and getting back and it’s just been an hour-yeah, that’s a joke. I KNOW the kissing is a parody of camp movies and it’s kind of funny to see so many over-the-top things in this movie. But, it’s not laugh-out-loud funny.
    Some of the best humor is really subtle: riding to town standing and screaming the whole way or the way the guys go stand facing a wall when they get back. But, most of the humor is big, obvious, and dumb. The exaggeration adds something to parody they’re doing, but not enough. Maybe if they weren’t making such a direct parody they could have fleshed out the characters and made some more complex and unpredictable humor. Instead we get Paul Rudd acting like a whiny teen.

    Overall: C. Not a single laugh.

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