The 90s are so hot right now.
From “Landline” to “Captain Marvel,” to chokers and mom jeans, it looks like it’s 1997 in real life and in entertainment.
“Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later,” which debuts on Friday on Netflix, goes out of its way to make it clear that it is in the 90s. While this is definitely a nod to the resurgence of 90s nostalgia in today’s culture, it also indicates that it’s a different decade than the previous installments of “Wet Hot.”
The series also applies 90s tropes to emphasize its setting further: nuclear threats, a psycho nanny (a slightly out of her element Alyssa Milano), and grunge.
When I found out that Netflix would reboot “Wet Hot American Summer” in 2015, I was disappointed when I found out that the season would take place on the first day of camp, and not at the reunion (discussed in the 2001 movie). But turns out, “First Day at Camp” was the right move to make. While the second chapter in the reboot “10 Years Later,” which does take place at that reunion, has some clever bits and a blindingly delightful Chris Pine, it’s lost its charm in the 90s setting.
The plot that drives the season centers around Ronald Reagan (Michael Showalter) and George H.W. Bush (Michael Ian Black), who want to nuke Camp Firewood for some reason. It’s absurd and nonsensical in the traditional “Wet Hot” way, but Reagan and Bush end up having more screen time than some of the original characters.
The plot provides some of the season’s funniest scenes and brings some memorable characters back to Camp Firewood. But in relying on these fictionalized versions of presidents it takes away time from people you might’ve preferred to see, like Amy Poehler, David Hyde Peirce, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Joe Lo Truglio, and Ken Marino. The list goes on. The great John Early (“Search Party“), who’s one of the best comedic actors working today (and a new addition to the Camp Firewood family starting with “First Day at Camp”) is severely underused.
“10 Years Later ” parodies action, romance, thriller, and the concept of reunion shows and movies like itself, but in the end it’s all too much. Although this is likely due to the massive success of the original movie’s cast following its 2001 release, some characters don’t join the reunion until the last few episodes. And some characters that are there throughout the whole season have completely separate story arcs, like Michael Ian Black and Adam Scott’s characters.
And I’ll just tell you now: Adam Scott just plays Bradley Cooper’s character, Ben. The explanation is a nose job. It’s very funny. But despite replacing Oscar-nominee Cooper with zero-time Oscar-nominee Scott, Scott is still a pretty busy guy, too, so that definitely had an effect on this storyline.
Despite its flaws, “10 Years Later” is definitely worth watching, and it’s not bad by any means. Compared to most comedies, it’s great. It’s funny, fun, and a quick watch if you have zero plans for the weekend. Fans of the cult comedy and of the first Netflix series will love revisiting the characters at Camp Firewood. But at this point in creators David Wain and Michael Showalter’s careers, I did expect a lot more.
It’s not a must-see.
Overall the season lacks focus that takes away from the absurd spirit that made “Wet Hot” tick. This is ironic, since in “10 Years Later,” the “spirit” of Camp Firewood plays a very important and prominent role.
Watch the trailer for “Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later” below:
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