When the original Wet Hot American Summer film released in 2001, viewers were treated to a subversion of the classic 80’s teen formula. The film was an instant cult hit, mainly due to its irreverent comedy and twists on cliché formula storytelling. Fans of the film never expected Netflix to pick up the franchise and turn it into two television series, but here we are. After the surprisingly silly and outrageously funny Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Netflix is looking to recreate the magic with Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.
The first season of the Netflix series (First Day of Camp) served more as a prequel to the film than anything else but added its own amount of charm. This camp in the form of more ridiculous story lines, and new characters. Instead of building on the original film, Ten Years Later feels more like a continuation of the themes from First Day at Camp. However, Ten Years Later ramps up the esoteric humor to unheard of level, essentially becoming a parody of itself; a sort of humor for a very niche audience.
Ten Years Later piggybacks off the final scene in the original film, where our camp counselors pledge to return to the camp in ten years for a reunion. Flash forward, and that plan has come to fruition, with each of our favorite counselors having distinct lives and responsibilities. These sub-plots all smash together in a somewhat cohesive romp, but there’s definitely a bit of heart missing in comparison to the original film and First Day at Camp.
However, you can’t ignore the star studded cast and their ridiculous performances. Of all the original cast, Bradley Cooper is absent in his original role as Ben, the husband and father of Michael Ian Black’s character, McKinley. Replacing Bradley Cooper is newcomer to the series Adam Scott, who fans might recognize from Parks and Recreation, which also happens to feature another returning cast member, Amy Poehler. Adam Scott easily falls into Bradley Cooper’s role of Ben, and the show simply waves a hand over the actor change. Early on, they explain away the actor change with a funny running joke about his new “nose job”. This lackadaisical and offhanded explanation sets the tone for the ridiculousness to come.
As a whole, Ten Years Later is less consistent than previous Wet Hot American content, partially due to (what I assume to be) scheduling conflicts and the challenges of getting such a large cast together for shooting. Often times episodes feel segmented, with certain characters completely absent or only featured for a second. Ten Years Later does a decent job covering this up, and while I can see the rough edges, most viewers won’t mind much. Each character has a subplot, and some episodes take extra time to delve into those.
At the forefront, you have a battle for ownership of Camp Firewood, the camp that plays home to the series. This main story line gets absolutely ridiculous, culminating in a finale that can only be described as equal parts hilarious and absurd. Additional story lines see a return of fan favorites like Gene (Christopher Meloni), the sentient Can of Vegetables (H. Jon Benjamin), and Andy (Paul Rudd). As each set of characters deal with their subplots, Ten Years Later starts to become more a sum of its parts rather than a cohesive narrative. Some jokes fall flat, others incite uproarious laughter. Most of it can be taken as juvenile comedy, but if you’re a fan of the franchise up until now, you’ll find yourself quite pleased.
Apart from Adam Scott’s role takeover, we do get the addition a few other new characters. In a funny flashback to the original film, we see newcomers Claire (Sarah Burns) and Mark (Mark Feuerstein) digitally added to the scene. Along with a few other scenes like this, Ten Years Later completely disregards the fact that they were never there in the first place and treats them like integral characters. Although it’s a decent joke, I often found myself not truly caring about Claire or Mark, as I never had nostalgia for those characters in the first place.
As a follow up to the excellent parody material that is Wet Hot American Summer and First Day of Camp, Ten Years Later, unfortunately, falls at the bottom of the list. For fans who truly enjoyed the earlier Wet Hot adventures, there’s definitely a lot to enjoy in Ten Years Later. Unfortunately, the quality teeters and falls off occasionally. Whether this is due to a difficult filming schedule, or something else, I don’t presume to know. When all was said and done, I was happy I spent the time watching Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. It’s not the best (or funniest) stuff we’ve seen from the creators, but the jokes that fall flat are easily overlooked thanks to some absolutely hilarious gags and subplots. It may not end up having the traction or cult following that the film or prequel series gained, but it’s a good piece of ridiculous comedy that’s unlike anything else. Some may find it absolutely horrendous and unfunny, but most fans will be pleased. If anything, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is a great summer binge for fans of the existing content.
Series Rating: 4 stars.
Series Ratings Guide
1 Star = Unwatchable
2 Stars = Cannot Recommend
3 Stars = Would Watch Again/For the Fans
4 Stars = Binge Worthy
5 Stars = Must Own (DVD/Stream Download)
I'm a life long gamer and an overall media junkie. In addition to writing great articles like this, I host a gaming/comedy podcast called "Super Gamecast 64" available on iTunes and Stitcher. I also watch an unhealthy amount of movies, and try to spread as much love into the world as I can. Hope you enjoyed the content!