This one time, at band camp, we wore black bike shorts under ripped jean shorts and participated in a dance contest. So, it's definitely a good thing our parents stopped shipping us off to camp right before puberty kicked in. Who knows what further embarrassments awaited us. Not that we didn't miss out on those essential summer camp movie experiences. While we did get to use microscopes to burn pictures into pieces of wood and tie-dye T-shirts with food coloring and rubber bands between rehearsals of Man of La Mancha, we lost the opportunities to make out in a barn, hook up with the recently divorced arts-and-crafts teacher and go into town to mug old ladies for money to buy coke and heroin. Oh, and saving our fellow campers from a plummeting renegade piece of the Skylab space station. No, we're not drinking last summer's leftover Kool-Aid. Those are just a few of the summer camp high jinks crammed into the love-it-or-hate-it, Meatballs-inspired satire Hot Wet American Summer.
This comedy written, directed and starring former members of MTV's comedy show The State is so over the top that, yes, a chunk of Skylab nearly takes out the rec hall during the big talent show. It's redirected at the last minute by either the weird wannabe-robot kid who learns to control the wind or an astrophysicist and his gang of nerds who use a Dungeons & Dragons 20-sided die to create random patterns for their space trash-diverting machine. Judging from the plot descriptions, it might surprise some that it stars Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Paul Rudd (Friends) and Saturday Night Live's Molly Shannon and Amy Poehler, in addition to veterans of The State, including Michael Showalter (who wrote the screenplay with David Wain, the director), Michael Ian Black and Joe Lo Truglio. But, with rabid fans of The State behind it, Wet Hot American Summer has become a cult phenomenon, relished by saw-it-opening-night fanatics, those who discovered it on video and newbies who know it only as a midnight movie through its Rocky Horror Picture Show-like revivals.
Having just closed a seven-month run in New York City, Wet Hot American Summer pitches its tent at the Angelika Film Center for two weekends with each midnight screening hosted by "camp counselors." The preshow experience will involve trivia contests, games and more activities that result in movie-themed prizes. Fans and their WHAS virgin friends (let's keep with the theme and call them Victors) can act out dialogue from the movie, rewrite Coop's love speech about Katie by filling in the blanks with new words or Hump the Gene to the Fridge (it's kinda like Pin the Tail on the Donkey). Camp counselor Frank Hejl (from KNTU-FM 88.1's Frequency Down show) says he hopes to add a costume contest and local bands performing acoustic covers of '80s songs. It sounds like a little bit of Loverboy's "Turn Me Loose" is just the thing to bring this house down, unless there are more bits of Skylab in the atmosphere.
Wet Hot American Summer will be shown at midnight Fridays and Saturdays through July 10 at Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane in Mockingbird Station. Games and trivia begin 30 minutes before the film. Call 214-841-4700.
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