Wet Hot American Summer is a delectable parody of dawn of the Reagan era teen flicks, and if that sounds like much ado about not very much, the movie is so hilariously sly about something so fetishistically trivial that at times it appears to take in an entire culture through a lens made of cheese. You may think you already know everything about the ’70s and the ’80s, but ”Wet Hot,” which is set on the last day of summer camp in 1981, pinpoints that invisible tectonic moment when the one morphed into the other. It was an era, post-”Animal House” and pre-MTV, caught between high times and ”Fast Times,” disco fever and spring break, John Holmes and John Hughes, the fall of the shaggy sensitive guy and the rise of the moussed macho stud.
The film’s creators, David Wain and Michael Showalter (formerly of MTV’s ”The State”), at once satirize and celebrate all of those brain dead, teen porn, sub-”Meatballs” comedies — trash like ”Hardbodies,” ”Private School,” and ”G.O.R.P.” — that, with 20 years’ hindsight, look as innocent as Sandra Dee beach romps. They’ve come up with a loving and meticulous re-creation of the last moment before American youth culture went permanently ironic.
Wain, in his directorial debut, crams the screen with priceless period detail — the Dungeons & Dragons genius; the monstrously uncool loser in his hideous white Afro and muscle shirt; Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce as matching dorks too clueless to slip into their proper sex roles. As Coop, an earnest girly man whose ”hot” babe friend (Marguerite Moreau) regards him as a completely nonsexual being, Showalter gives an inspired performance of flinging limbs and wistful geek sighs. It’s one of the film’s highlights when he’s made over in a post-”Rocky”/ pre-”Flashdance” kung fu workout montage. The single funniest moment, however, has to be the crazed Vietnam vet cook (Christopher Meloni) confronting his sexuality by? well, trust me, you just have to see it. ”Wet Hot American Summer” is the most gleeful and ingenious pop satire since ”The Brady Bunch Movie” and the ”Naked Gun” glory days of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker.