In Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later, Netflix’s latest revisiting of the beloved 2001 cult comedy film, Gerald “Coop” Cooperberg (Michael Showalter) is now a struggling novelist who bemoans being unable to find a good ending to his book. Coincidentally, the Wet Hot saga that Showalter built with David Wain can be described in a similar way, only in this case the pair is running out of story to tell.
Picking up a decade after the original crew left Camp Firewood, 10 Years Later is centered on a reunion the junior counselors planned way back in 1981 at the end of the movie. And like the film — and First Day of Camp, Netflix’s other Wet Hot series — 10 Years Later finds a lot of humor in the actors being much, much older than their characters. But this time around, the age is much more apparent, specifically in the show’s humor.
Part of what made Wet Hot American Summer so loved and influential was its almost virtuosic absurdity. With its constant meta-jokes, drawn out sight gags and total disregard for the concept of time, it more or less created the template for modern alt-comedy. And because of that, many of the 10 Years Later jokes can feel stale — sure, Showalter, Wain and their costars may have popularized this stuff, but it’s been seen so much since that it can feel tired, even coming from its purveyors.
That said, the cast — 10 Years Later’s greatest asset by far — is always game, which helps to find the life in many of the jokes. Still a virgin, Ken Marino’s Victor can turn even the most clueless innuendos into comedic gold (as does his sidekick, Joe Lo Truglio’s Neil, after he finishes his three-episode nap of course). And Katie (Marguerite Moreau, who, like Paul Rudd, hasn’t aged a day since the original film), is still bubbly and bipolar, pinballing between emotions almost on a dime. And don’t even get me started on Rudd’s Andy, now a grunge wannabe doing his best-worst Eddie Vedder impression, or Amy Poehler’s Susie going full-on Pretty in Pink as a Hollywood super-producer.Much of the First Day of Camp crowd shows up, too, with Wain, Lake Bell, Chris Pine, Jason Schwartzman and John Early all reprising their roles from the 2015 series. And it should be noted that this is another footnote in Pine’s stellar 2017, marking a huge leap forward for him in Hollywood’s “Game of Chrises” or “The War of the Four Chrises” (whichever name doesn’t get me sued by HBO).
Joining the cast this time around are Sarah Burns and Mark Feuerstein as Claire and Mark, two Firewood alums who have apparently been around since 1981 (they were digitally inserted into scenes from the original film), are best friends with the main cast, and it’s never addressed beyond that. Likewise, Adam Scott replaces Bradley Cooper as Ben, and the obvious physical difference is chalked up to a “nose job.” And Alyssa Milano plays a psycho nanny, because fuck it, why not?
The show isn’t not funny, it’s just that it’s been telling the same joke it always has been: Camp Firewood is in mortal danger, and it’s up to the gang to save it through a series of wacky occurrences. The difference this time around is that the spastic goofiness that propelled the original film seems to be less inspired. 10 Years Later feels more like it was made out of obligation than necessity, and even though it does show flashes of comedic brilliance, it mostly spins its wheels.
Only die-hard completionists and people still nursing their childhood crushes on former Mighty Duck Marguerite Moreau (both categories I fall into) should sit through all eight episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later. But if you want to see these jokes done with the inspiration and energy they deserve, check out the original film.
And by the way, the current “Game of Chrises” power ranking are…
Don’t @ me.