The first day of camp has probably already passed for the lucky kids around the U.S. whose even luckier parents wanted to get rid of them for the summer, but for the campers and counselors of Camp Firewood -- and fans of the cult classic "Wet Hot American Summer" -- the big day is set for July 31.
Way back when in 2001, "Wet Hot American Summer" totally fizzled at the box office, despite the presence of Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, and about 30 other people we'll talk about later. But since then, the story of the last day at a 1981 Jewish sleepover camp in Waterville, Maine has reached major cult status, and now literally every single one of its stars is back for an eight-episode prequel -- yes, they're playing two months younger versions of their teen characters, despite being 14 years older -- on Netflix.
MTV News screened the first four episodes of camp in advance (possibly more than twice), and here are seven reasons why you absolutely need to brave the risk of assassination (or death by Skylab debris) to revisit Firewood this wet, hot summer:
Everyone acts even more teen than they did 14 years ago.
A big part of the reason why "Wet Hot" became such a cult hit is the fact that pretty much all of its stars moved on to bigger things after the film's release. And if watching late-20-somethings pretend to be teens in 2001 was a blast, just imagine watching them do it 14 years later, now that they've all collected the big bucks elsewhere and can return to their beloved summer camp one last time just for sh-ts and giggles. (Basically everyone's ultimate nostalgia fantasy, just with talking cans and ambiguously evil counselors.)
Rudd, Poehler, Cooper, and the rest of the gang are all clearly having the time of their lives at Camp Firewood, and their enthusiasm for the project is so infectious that even when a particular gag doesn't land, you really love watching them sell it. (And besides, the laughs come so quickly that you'll forget about it ten seconds later anyway.)
The newcomers are having a blast...
A burned-out former counselor turned rock star who now lives as a recluse played by Chris Pine? Sure. An assassin called "Falcon" on a mission to murder Camp Firewood counselors -- who are always somehow at the center of a major government conspiracy -- played by Jon Hamm? Absolutely. Why not.
Then of course there's Josh Charles' wonderfully committed performance as a fratty douchebag, Kristin Wiig as a waspy rival camp counselor, John Slattery as Cooper and Poehler's somehow even more horrible acting coach, and so, so many more celebrity cameos that are at once gleefully silly, and totally necessary for the "Wet Hot" brand. Watching our favorite actors having the absolute most fun is a big part of what made the movie work, and it's great watching a new class of stars get to do it for the "prequel."
... But it's really all about filling in the blanks of the original.
Even with all of the madcap hilarity going on in the show's approximate 29,401 plot lines, the show -- much like the movie -- still finds time for some real pathos from a few of its main characters. Specifically, fans should love finding out how Gene (Christopher Meloni) became the hardened warrior-turned-chef he was on the last day of summer, how Coop (Michael Showalter, who also plays Ronald Reagan) became so unlucky in love, and how Susie and Ben (Poehler and Cooper) put together that God-awful (get it?) production of "Godspell." These are some real dramatic stakes, people.
It reveals the origin story of a "Wet Hot" legend...
Undoubtedly, one of the most beloved plot lines in the first film centered around a Can of Mixed Vegetables voiced by "Archer" star H. Jon Benjamin. So of course, the "Wet Hot" prequel gives the Can an origin story that involves death, love, heartbreak, conspiracy, and toxic sludge. Hey man, a lot can happen on the first day of camp...
... And changes everything you thought you knew about another.
Banks' Lindsay was a side-character in the "Wet Hot" film, mostly famous for making out with Rudd, killing children, and being a sloppy eater. So now that Banks is a major star, it only makes sense that the show gives her one of the meatiest plot lines as an undercover 20-something rock journalist working on a summer camp story for a New York City magazine. She surreptitiously lugs around an oh-so-'80s typewriter as she uncovers Firewood's dirtiest secrets and coolest urban legends, and of course, sells it like crazy. You'll love it, kids.
Two words: McKinley and Ben.
Now that Cooper is a major A-lister (and Michael Ian Black always has been, at least in our own brains) known for macho-man fare like "The Hangover" and "American Sniper," who knew that he would recommit so fully to his gay romance with Black's character McKinley? Because boy does he ever, and it's as sexually charged and youthfully innocent as it was the first time around. Except now he's Bradley Freaking Cooper.
Two more words: Jon Hamm.
In case you missed his guest appearances on "30 Rock" or "Kimmy Schmidt" and also somehow didn't see "Bridesmaids," then know that Hamm is somehow even more wonderful doing comedy than he is doing Don Draper. His plot as the Ronald Reagan murder-lackey the Falcon is somehow the most deliriously wacky part of all of this, especially the sequence in which he quite literally emerges out of "Weird Al" Yankovic like a chestbuster in Alien.
Watch this damn show, folks.