Wet Hot American Summer
has all the tropes of a classic from the Golden Age of cinema: short shorts, sex in the utility shed, a talking can of vegetables, barbecue sauce. These ingredients, with a dash of David Hyde Pierce’s mustache and the ever-present pall of hormones due to the total nymphos in Bunk 10, were more than enough to cement David Wain’s absurdist satire as a beloved midnight-movie classic.
Now, 14 years after it entered and exited theaters with a speed roughly equivalent to Usain Bolt jogging in front of a flaming supersonic comet, Netflix is bringing the entire original Wet Hot ensemble back together for a steamily anticipated, one-off miniseries. This is no small feat: the film, which by itself definitely launched the careers of stars such as Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and America’s sweetheart, A.D. Miles, boasts a marquee of A-list celebs and cult favorites alike.
To celebrate their reunion at Camp Firewood, we’ve compiled the best films (not TV shows, because that would be a drastically different list) of the Wet Hot cast in the years since that fateful summer. Some have been nominated for Oscars, some were in Osmosis Jones; some of these films prove that the best summer of their lives is long gone. Ah well: some people taste like a burger, and some don’t.
10. Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Director: Raja Gosnell
Marguerite Moreau (“Katie”)
In the pantheon of films about dogs living rich, complex lives that our stupid human brains can’t fully comprehend, a titanic figure towers over his rivals, a thin strand of drool dripping from his contented tongue: Air Bud. No one else, mutt and purebred alike, is worthy of his Timberwolves jersey, not even after his glory years, when he started shilling for Hanes Dog Briefs, which have a comfortable hole in the back for your tail. Beethoven comes next. Neither of these dudes talk—they are old school dogs who value stoicism and classic masculinity. Chloe (Drew Barrymore), from Beverly Hills Chihuahua, is not in the pantheon. Marguerite Moreau, in the film, plays the friend of the niece of the owner of Chloe. She likely received a sum of money for speaking her lines. Nice!
9. Osmosis Jones
Directors: Tom Sito, Piet Kroon, Robert Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
David Hyde Pierce (“Henry”)
Here is a line from Wikipedia’s very thorough entry for the box office failure: “Chris Rock [stars] as Osmosis ‘Ozzy’ Jones, a funky, urban, over-zealous blue and white blood cell (specifically a natural killer cell) with little respect for authority.” A natural killer cell! Little respect for authority! Urban! Somewhere, a hungry young screenwriter is pitching a gritty, non-animated reboot. In it, Jones—played by Idris Elba—roams the lawless capillaries of an immune system ravaged by Oxycontin addiction and gonorrhea. His partner, David Hyde Pierce’s Drix, is a capsule of pseudoephedrine who tries to keep Jones honest in a world where one good leukocyte just doing his job might be the only thing holding this plasma together. In the actual Osmosis Jones, David Hyde Pierce has a big scene where his character pops a zit from the inside out.
8. The Place Beyond the Pines
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Bradley Cooper (“Ben”)
Did you think we’d pick American Sniper? Bradley Cooper was good in American Sniper, an Academy Award nominated piece of Soviet-grade agitprop, but his involvement raises questions in some circles regarding whether or not he should be tried at The Hague. A film about Bradley Cooper being tried at The Hague for propagating war criminals’ lies, starring Bradley Cooper as himself, would be a very good film that I would watch, and he would undoubtedly give a stellar performance as Bradley Cooper. He is also stellar in The Place Beyond the Pines, an underrated character drama too long by about an hour but full of understated performances, pretty cinematography and Ryan Gosling looking extremely cool on a motorcycle. Wet Hot American Summer is Bradley Cooper’s first credited film role. In a stirring, emotional scene, this role is what will save him from being convicted at The Hague.
7. The Baxter
Director: Michael Showalter
Michael Showalter (“Coop”)
Michael Showalter, who co-wrote Wet Hot with David Wain, plays Coop with the perfect blend of slapstick intuition, goofball innocence, and a tinge of actual pathos. The Baxter, his feature debut as a writer-director and his follow-up to Wet Hot, was poised to announce Showalter as a serious comedic film talent (not to mention re-affirm his penchant for ensembling, bringing on Wet Hot co-stars Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Zak Orth and Michael Ian Black). Instead, it’s a strange film, its tone a jumble of romantic comedy tropes, typical Showalter-Wain irony and real sad-sack dejection. That uneasy mixture may be why the film grossed a mere $180,000 and change, or in industry jargon, approximately .0129 the gross of Osmosis Jones. Too bad—The Baxter holds up as a unique, sometimes discomfiting experience about how things rarely work out the way they do in the movies.
6. Marie Antoinette
Director: Sofia Coppola
Molly Shannon (“Gail”)
Sofia Coppola, having seen Molly Shannon’s tortured Wet Hot performance as a woman torn between her ex-husband and the new man in her life (a literal child who gives great back rubs), took the logical next step: she cast Shannon as the aunt of the Dauphin in her biopic about the life and death of Marie Antoinette. The original Superstar!, Marie Antoinette is almost pointless for the sake of it—surprisingly of a similar breath with Wet Hot—but it is a garishly beautiful piece of entertainment, as bereft of restraint as its protagonist’s teenage ego, and helped introduce a new generation to New Order’s “Age of Consent.” Also, wigs.