Now for anyone who knows me, I am predisposed to HATE crude comedy. I was brought up on British humour (the likes of Blackadder, Red Dwarf etc). So when a trailer for Wet Hot American Summer came up on Netflix, I almost instantly dismissed it. Reading the synopsis for First Day of Camp, it sounded ridiculous, but then the little voice in my head that loves SNL said ‘oh but Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler and about a million other stars are in it, it can’t be that bad right?’. So I watched the trailer and of course, I was hooked.
At first, I didn’t even realise it was actually supposed to be a prequel, until handy Netflix told me I might also like to watch Wet Hot American Summer. So I watched the movie first. As I had originally predicted, it was ridiculous. The premise was tried and true (the old American summer camp bit) but the execution was far from it. For those who have yet to see the original movie, filmed 15 years before First Day of Camp, I do recommend it. It sets up a lot of the bits in First Day of Camp but is just a crazy, silly watch. With that in mind, you may be entering spoiler territory, so be warned!
First Day of Camp is set (as you would think), on the first day of summer camp. ‘Kids’ who were once campers have now graduated to camp counsellors and help the younger campers once they arrive. This initial introduction (or reintroduction for some) is one of the best parts of the series. We see Michael Showalter’s Coop sitting amongst his friends with the daddest of dad bod’s, all of whom are trying to impress each other and the camp directors. This is all in stark contrast to the original film which is set on the last day of camp. Whether we may or may not see what happened in the inbetween 8 weeks, who knows. But both the series and the film attempt to capture that most painfully awkward of times: puberty.
I say attempt because the cast are the same as the original cast 15 years ago, so the likes of Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks playing 17 year olds is pretty far fetched (OK its ridiculous, but suspend belief for a bit). If you can move past that, and I would understand if you couldn’t, First Day of Camp is really a riot. Each episode goes over a certain time period in the one day (from campers first arrival to the ‘staff musical’ at night). At any given time, it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening to who but on the whole, the show is laid out fairly well.
There are ongoing plot points that seem to waft in and out throughout the series, the mysterious goings on in the woods at Camp Firewood, the supposedly abandoned cabin (that actually houses a reclusive rocker with ties to Camp Firewood), the seemingly random inclusion of a story about an astrophysics academic and Molly Shannon’s weird love triangles. If you hadn’t seen the movie, it is pretty confusing and very far fetched.
As previously mentioned, the show is really a who’s who of American comedy, with Paul Rudd starring alongside Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofolo, Michael Showalter, Molly Shannon and the list goes on. Most actors are reprising their roles from the film but we do have some additions including Jason Schwartzman, Jon Hamm and a hilarious cameo by Chris Pine.
Suffice to say, the show teases out some points from the original film but I found that it also opened up more questions as well. While some points from the movie are explained in the show, some points in the show do explain the movie as well. Having the entire series on Netflix (8 episodes), Wet Hot American Summer First Day of Camp is the perfect binge-length show for those days when you have nothing in your queue and have no idea what to watch.
I give Wet Hot American Summer First Day of Camp 3.5 stars out of 5, easy to watch and get into but nothing too heavy or serious.