Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

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Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: August 6, 2008
Director: David Gordon Green

When a lazy, stoner process server named Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) witnesses the murder of a Chinese drug dealer at the hands of Ted Jones (Gary Cole), the guy he was supposed to serve, he flees the scene of the crime and heads back to the guy who sells him pot (and his only friend) Saul Silver (James Franco). When it comes to light that Ted Jones is a major drug dealer, and the same guy who gave Saul a highly-rare strain of pot called Pineapple Express, the hapless duo realize that a couple of roaches left at the scene of the crime can be traced back to them. The two set out on the run from crooked cops and hired thugs, and all of them want the stoners dead.

I recently rewatched this, wondering if my original opinion had changed, and it did not. If anything, I think I like it more now than I did a couple years ago when I first saw it.

This is a stoner comedy done right. It has the appropriate amount of “touching” moments, without being sappy (like many of Adam Sandler’s comedies), has a lot of hilarious dialogue and stoner situations and, of course, has a lot of comedic talent.

Seth Rogen’s witty, sarcastic Dale Denton is a great character and we also see James Franco really dig in with his vapid, carefree portrayal of Saul Silver. Then, we have Danny McBride, who is hilarious as usual. There are lots of other cameos by other really funny people, too, like Bill Hader and Craig Robinson. It’s just a great ensemble cast.

The movie clipped along at a nice pace. Nothing really got too bogged down. There were plenty of chase scenes and awkward situational humor. I knew the inevitable rift between the main characters would come, and I disliked the way it was done in this film only because it was phoned ahead and it was hard not to see it coming when it did.

Many folks will prefer other movies by Team Apatow, like Knocked Up or Superbad. Those are great movies, too, but I think this one should be compared more to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back or Dude, Where’s My Car?. Next to those last two stoner flicks, I really think Pineapple Express can hold its own. If you don’t enjoy this movie, chances are, you don’t really like stoner flicks in general.

For a “stupid-humor” film, though, this has a pretty smart screenplay and some really great direction by David Gordon Green.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Pineapple Express

Role Models (2008)

Role Models (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: November 7, 2008
Director: David Wain

Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are two energy drink salesmen who travel to various schools and businesses to try and sell their company’s drink. Danny is jaded and fed up with the company and is taking it out on everyone around him, including his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks). When Danny goes too far and ends up trashing his company’s truck, he and Wheeler must face either jail time or community service. Not opting for jail, the two salesmen end up as Big Brothers; Danny to a socially-crippled teen named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who spends his days dreaming of being a medieval warrior. Wheeler, meanwhile, is assigned to a foul-mouthed boy named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) and the both of them give the guys a run for their money, testing their patience, wallets and friendships.

I never quite know what to expect from a movie that has either Paul Rudd or Seann William Scott in it. Sometimes I think they get typecast as the same old characters they always play. This movie isn’t that different, but it certainly does some interesting things that a lot of their other films don’t do.

First, I did like the dynamic between Scott and Rudd. They’re just like a different version of the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson duo, to me, and that formula works pretty well. Rudd was sarcastic and sometimes angry like Ben Stiller and Scott was sort of daft and out for himself, but full of heart like one of Owen Wilson’s characters. (Think Starsky and Hutch, or Zoolander).

The addition of the big brother program headed up by Jane Lynch’s character was great, as well as the LARP (Live Action Roleplaying) group that Christopher Mintz-Plasse enjoys so much. There were a couple of smarmy moments I didn’t enjoy, because I find that a lot of times in comedies like this they try to throw in some touchy-feely type things like Adam Sandler started doing with all his comedies after the 90’s and it sort of ruins the pacing.

Overall, I think it’s one of my favorite Paul Rudd movies. Plus, he helped write the script so it looks like working with Judd Apatow has paid off for him because this definitely seemed like it could be an Apatow movie. Give it a watch, even for all the cool cameos by other funny folks.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Role Models