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Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later REVIEW

Let's meet in the morning so we can make a day of it.

When Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp first aired back in 2015, people weren’t really sure what to expect from a prequel series to a movie that had flopped when it was first released back in 2001. Certainly, Wet Hot American Summer has developed a cult following over the years, as fans began to realise that the movie was smarter than a lot of critics first gave it credit for, but did that really warrant a whole new Netflix series? Especially as all of the main protagonists would be playing much, much younger versions of themselves, and were now much more in-demand and more established actors, compared to 2001. A lot of people were convinced that the Netflix original would flop as its movie predecessor originally did, but First Day of Camp was widely acclaimed upon release, with fans and critics alike praising its eccentric humour and ability to poke fun at both itself, and the teen comedy genre that it was parodying.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is a sequel to both the film and the series, available to view in its entirety right now on Netflix. It comprises eight episodes which average twenty five minutes each, and is set (as the title suggests!) ten years after the original Wet Hot American Summer. I’m going to try to keep this review spoiler-free, to give you a more general overview of the episodes, and my thoughts on the series as a whole.

Set in 1991, Ten Years Later centres around the reunion of the camp counsellors from Camp Firewood, who meet ten years after the events of the Wet Hot movie, to check in with one another and see how each of their lives have turned out. Most of the main cast return to Ten Years Later to reprise their roles, though notably absent is Bradley Cooper (Ben), who reportedly had too many scheduling conflicts to be able to film with the rest of the cast. Though I was initially disheartened about this when I first heard the news (his scenes with Amy Poehler’s Susie are some of my favourites), the show handles his absence extremely well, in a twist that’s too good to spoil.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later screenshot

Ten Years Later retains the idiosyncratic humour of both the movie and First Day of Camp: what begins as a simple comedy/drama about growing up and adjusting to adulthood quickly transforms into an odd and pretty surreal plot which somehow ends up involving the White House, a woman who is potentially a homicidal maniac, nuclear war and much, much more with Camp Firewood…all whilst having everything still make an odd kind of sense by its own logic. It’s always fun and entertaining, even if you do have to pay attention–though Ten Years Later might be a lighthearted comedy, these aren’t eight episodes that you can let play in the background whilst you wash dishes or check out reviews for The Emoji Movie on your iPad. Though the plot of Ten Years Later is, at times, incredibly silly, it’s also incredibly important, and the eight episodes are short enough to be binged without causing the casual viewer too much fatigue.

The narrative of Ten Years Later is, overall, pretty great, though it’s stretched a little more thinly than that of the previous two Wet Hot instalments. That’s not to say that’s what there isn’t funny or interesting, just that I felt as if the previous series and movie had more going on in terms of both subplots and character arcs.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later screenshot

Ten Years Later proves that Wet Hot American Summer is more than just a simple joke, however, and the show manages to retain a real sense of heart between all the humour. You end up feeling incredibly sympathetic towards the more downtrodden characters, and end up rooting for all of the underdogs throughout. Ten Years Later is, among many other things, a story about love and friendship and coming of age, and the more serious moments help to make the jokes even funnier when they land. Of course, the series is fun above all else, and it has the same sense of adolescent cheekiness that helped make the movie and First Day of Camp so popular.

Whether this is your first visit to Camp Firewood or your third time signing up for the Science Club, you’ll enjoy what Ten Years Later has to offer, though first-time viewers may end up a little confused by the show’s sense of humour if they’re completely new to it. At least take the time to watch the movie if you don’t want to watch the prequel episodes, and if you enjoy what you see, Ten Years Later won’t let you down.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is a series that really shouldn’t appeal to a wide audience at all, but manages to be charming, silly and surreal enough to get a laugh out of almost anyone, even if–like me–they’ve never been anywhere near an American summer camp in their lives.

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