Summer Camp

"Wet Hot American Summer" is a parody of the teen-coming-of-age movies of the '70s and '80s (think "Hardbodies" et al.), hardly a subject that would seem to require urgent comic attention. But let's not leap to conclusions. We'll take a funny movie from wherever it comes, and this shamefully underpromoted, gloriously silly romp made me laugh harder than any other movie this summer. Make that this year.

The creation of Michael Showalter and David Wain, of the MTV comedy troupe The State, "Wet Hot" transpires in 1981, on the closing day of Camp Firewood, a Jewish summer camp in Maine. A lot happens on this particular day, which will end, in time-honored tradition, with the camp talent show. The romantically clueless camp director (Janeane Garofalo) falls in love with a tightly wound astrophysics assistant professor (David Hyde Pierce), who happens to notice that a part of Skylab is hurtling dangerously toward camp. The tall, geeky counselor Coop (Showalter) falls for the bodacious Katie (Marguerite Moreau), who is smitten with the surly pretty boy Andy (Paul Rudd), a lifeguard so inattentive he lets two of his charges sink. The cook is a crazed Vietnam vet (Christopher Meloni) who converses with a can of vegetables and has sexual designs on a household appliance. Etc., etc.

This blissfully unimportant movie starts in a deceptively low key, only gradually unveiling its total lunacy (the staff's debauched trip into town is a throwaway highlight). If there is any movie justice, half the folks standing in line for "American Pie 2" will rush over to see this infinitely more accomplished comedy. That is, if they can find it. Wise up, USA Films--you've got a winner on your hands.