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Film: Camp Towanda- Then and Now

By Henry P. Raleigh
ART TIMES Jan/ Feb 2016 online

Camp Towanda drawing by Henry P. Raleigh

It’s curious if you think about it — I mean after watching Netflix’s re-do of “Wet, Hot, American Summer.” You remember the first one, in 2001? A send-up of those teen camp movies of the 70’s, a good natured satire adapting some old sketch comedies to a spoof of a day in a kid’s summer camp. Save for Jeanne Garofalo the actors were young, unknown, and cheerfully working comedy schick from slapstick to Abbot and Costello-like routines. In a similar spirit the 2015 “Wet, Hot, American Summer” does its best to reprise the first, and now, cult classic, even to assembling much of the original cast who, like Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and Molly Shannon are no longer young or unknown. Where the 2001 “Wet Hot” opens on the last day of camp, the second begins on opening day. It’s the same zany, fun filled camp Towanda, in any case — well, not exactly, for a surprising darkness has crept in amidst the fun: What is the sinister presence in an old cabin?; does anyone think it’s really possible to do satires of satires?

And get this, The President of the United States is named Ronald Reagan, can you guess who this is supposed to be? And he is in cahoots with the evil corporation dumping toxic waste on camp grounds, and oh worse, has hired an assassin to take out new comers Jason Schwartzman and Michael Cera who are about to expose the corruption and are knocked off before they’ve had much film time— take that Republicans. Why even the romantic sexy adventures have become scarred by deceit and cruel betrayers. What’s going on, I ask you?

Has the past fifteen years or so - years taken away our last shred of happy-go-lucky play?

Are these two “Wet Hot American Summer” telling us something?