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Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is the third trip to Camp Firewood after the original film (Wet Hot American Summer) and the Netflix prequel series (Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp), and it’s the least-funny of the three.

It’s still one of the funniest things you will find on television.

Most of the group is back again for the eight-episode series, by writer-director David Wain and writer Michael Showalter. At the end of the original movie, the camp counselors (including Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper and Janeane Garofalo) promised to reunite 10 years later to see how things turned out. Here, they do just that, with their reunion threatened by an evil Ronald Reagan (Showalter) and George H.W. Bush (Michael Ian Black, in what has to be the worst and most hilarious George Bush impersonation ever). The two presidents want to nuke the place for nonsensical reasons.

Cooper, a superstar actor now, had to drop out (though he’s replaced in a very funny way by Adam Scott), while Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, manages to return as rebel Andy. This time out, Andy is sporting grunge long hair, and it often looks like he is inserted into group shots in post-production, probably because Rudd couldn’t stick around for the whole shoot. Wain finds ways to make this obvious and, yes, very funny.

There are a lot of early ’90s references. Wain is the king of wiseass humor, and this might be the most wiseass effort of them all. The humor involves a young Reagan taking spherical shits; Ken Marino’s Victor and his still pathetic virginity; and a psycho nanny played by series newcomer Alyssa Milano. Elizabeth Banks spends most of the show in a separate storyline. A moment in which a door is slammed on her hand made me laugh harder than I have all year.

This series seems like a final chapter, with everything winding up in one of those clever ’90s twist endings. However, I hope they continue to get the band together for years to come. The world needs the continuing saga of Camp Firewood.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

One of the summer’s best bets isn’t in theaters; it’s on Netflix.

David Wain and Michael Showalter have finally birthed their Wet Hot American Summer prequel as an eight-episode Netflix series. However, I see it more as a four-hour movie feast of dick and fart humor.

The film takes place in the same year (1981) as the film did, but this time, it’s the first day of camp rather than the last day. Everybody has returned, and there has been no effort to make the likes of Showalter, Janeane Garofalo, Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler look any younger. Oddly enough, Paul Rudd, A.D. Miles and Michael Ian Black somehow look younger than they did in the 2001 film.

New additions to the cast include Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm and Jason Schwartzman, and they make the day at Camp Firewood all the more special. Ken Marino’s character is even more of a virgin than he was in the original (he punches his own cock a lot), and Christopher Meloni’s Gene the Cook is living a lie with a secret identity. We also find out how his can of vegetables attained its voice.

Because this is set in the ’80s, toxic waste, bad gym shorts and “Weird Al” Yankovic all play prominent roles. If you hated the original film, you will hate this, and I feel sorry for you. If you regard the original as one of the funniest movies ever made, as I do, then this stuff is heaven—and we need more.

New songs include the Pat Benatar-like “Heart Attack of Love” and Paul Rudd’s searing rendition of “Champagne Eyes.” Paul Rudd singing is something to be cherished.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Animation directors don’t get a lot of kudos. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille) is probably the best-known and most-celebrated director in the lot, and he deserves the accolades. John Lasseter gave us the first two Toy Story films, which earns him forgiveness for Cars 2.

It’s time to now sing the praises of Mr. Pete Docter, the director of Up, perhaps the greatest animated movie ever made—and now the man behind the wonderful, imaginative Inside Out. Docter (who also directed Monsters, Inc.) has an amazing knack for conveying real emotion in animation. This is a guy who had audiences crying within mere minutes during the opening of Up, and now he’s created a film that deals specifically with emotions in a hilarious and innovative way.

Inside Out is a masterpiece, not only because it looks fantastic, but also because it generates real, genuine feelings. It also has some of that blissful, bizarre insanity that made Up such a winner. There are creations in this movie that burst with genius energy.

The movie goes inside the mind of Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), a girl who is displaced from Minnesota to a small house in San Francisco with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). Inside Riley’s mind, we see her emotions, each of which is represented by a character: Amy Poehler as Joy, Bill Hader as Fear, Lewis Black as Anger, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Mindy Kaling as Disgust.

Other amazing ideas within this brilliant film’s universe: Riley’s memories take the form of little crystal balls with life occurrences playing inside them. Different islands of her mind represent family, goofiness and, her favorite sport, hockey. Finally, there’s the subconscious/dream factory, where discarded imaginary friends and creepy party clowns hide.

Along with being very funny, the film bluntly addresses the loss of memories as we grow up; how core memories can be forever tainted with sadness; and just how important sadness is to any human being. It’s all handled in a very Pixar way—which does not mean whitewashed. At times, the film is quite brutal and startling. This is what places a Pixar film a cut above the rest, including the best of the Disney animated films: There’s a level of complexity here that you won’t find in your average family film. Parents: Expect to have some big discussions with some of your more alert kids after taking them to see this one.

Poehler’s Joy is visualized as a bright blue and green pixie akin to Tinker Bell. It’s her voice that anchors this movie—this is one of the great animated film performances. Hader’s gangly and nervous Fear joins Black’s volcanic-red Anger to provide most of the film’s comedy. A sequence in which Fear gets bored watching one of Riley’s routine nightmares is big highlight.

Sadness—a roundish, blue, bespectacled orb—seems to be a threat throughout the movie, as she tries to touch and taint memories. This proves to be somewhat of a fakeout by the film’s end, when we find out her true destiny in Riley’s upbringing.

As he did with Up, Docter has put together an animated movie that impresses during every second, and surprises at every turn. His animated work has more layers than most dramatic live-action affairs. We are only halfway through the year, but I see Docter as a top candidate for year-end Best Director honors. As of right now, he’s made the year’s best movie so far.

Hold on, because Inside Out is the first of two new Pixar films this year: The Good Dinosaur is set for release at Thanksgiving. I can’t wait.

Inside Out is playing in various formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

David Wain and Michael Showalter, longtime collaborators who are two of the funniest men on the planet, have put together a great goof on romantic comedies with They Came Together, a perfect vehicle for Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler.

Wain directs from a script co-written with Showalter, and it turns out to be a nice companion piece to their brilliant summer-camp parody Wet Hot American Summer, one of the 10 funniest movies ever made. Wet Hot also featured Rudd and Poehler, performers who are right at home with the Wain-Showalter brand of bizarre, random rapid-fire humor. The film takes pokes at drippy rom-coms, most notably the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan barfer You’ve Got Mail, while still being a legitimate, authentic romantic comedy.

Wain and Showalter use the age-old framing device of two couples talking and reminiscing about relationships over dinner and wine. Joel (Rudd) and Molly (Poehler) reveal that their meeting was a “corny romantic comedy kind of story,” and indeed, it is.

We then see Joel and Molly as two recently dumped individuals living in Manhattan and toiling away on opposite sides of the candy-trade spectrum. Molly owns a little candy shop called Upper Sweet Side; Joel works for an evil corporate candy company opening across the street. They meet for the first time at a costume party—both dressed as Benjamin Franklin, and both not really interested in meeting anybody. While Joel is a corporate drone, he longs to start a little coffee shop called Cup of Joel. Molly just wants to give all of her candy money away to charity.

Things begin badly for the couple, but start picking up when the two meet at a bookstore and discover they both like fiction books, of all things. They then go through all of the standard new-couple-falling-in-love-against-all-odds scenarios, with Joel being the handsome-but-not-so-much-that-he’s-threatening prototype, and Molly the fussy, clumsy, breakfast-cereal-consuming kind of girl.

The almighty Michael Ian Black (the third member of the legendary Stella troupe, along with Wain and Showalter) scores laughs as Trevor, Joel’s competitive co-worker who is trying to steal both Joel’s promotion and Joel’s girlfriend, a woman Tiffany Amber Thigpen (a Saved By the Bell joke!). We know he’s trying to steal Joel’s girlfriend, because he takes a rubber out of the rubber bowl (yes, a hard-candy dish full of loose rubbers) right after mentioning her.

Christopher Meloni is on board as Joel’s boss; he has a superhero-costume mishap in what becomes one of the year’s funniest movie scenes. Ed Helms plays a well-meaning loser who tries to move in on Molly when she and Joel get into trouble.

The movie goes through many of the rom-com standard moments, including dinner at Molly’s frighteningly odd parents’ house; musical montages during which Molly tries on outfits for Joel (she settles on a suit of armor); and romping in a pile of leaves at the park, with the pile of leaves, of course, containing a surprise they fail to notice. The film hits its comedic apex during a dinner date featuring a waiter with a pole up his ass.

In a perfect world, Wain and Showalter would make a movie like They Came Together every three or four days, but I guess we have to settle for once a decade. Or maybe not—because Wain spoke of a potential Wet Hot American Summer prequel while promoting this film on the talk-show circuit. The project has even been proposed as a mini-series for Netflix.

The film is available for rental via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com, and is also available on demand. Watch it—not only because it will make you laugh a lot, but because its success could mean somebody will bankroll the Wet Hot prequel. I want that Wet Hot prequel!

Published in Reviews