Review: WHAS First Day of Camp ‘Dinner’

“Do you know why  Camp Firewood is so important to me? Those counselors, the cabins, the campers, the fields, the bunks. It’s the only family I know other than my own family.” -Beth

Up until now, Christopher Meloni’s Jonas has been a shell of the man we already know he will become. Instead of a grizzled Vietnam vet who talks to vegetables and humps refrigerators, he’s just a “doofus from the Mess Hall” on Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp getting ready to marry Gail (Molly Shannon). This buttoned up version of the camp cook starts to crack when Victor (Ken Marino) and Neil (Jo Lo Truglio) prank call him as the fifth episode “Dinner” opens. Jonas isn’t just furious with Victor after the bumbled prank call (Victor accidentally leaves the phone off the hook); he’s descriptive in what he’s going to do to exact revenge.

The exchange gives Victor and Neil, who have been background characters until now, a chance to shine as Jonas comes looking for Victor in the cabin – Victor contorts himself in silly ways to avoid detection – and chases him through the woods in classic ’80s movie send-up slow motion. It also sets up a conflicting pre-wedding scenario for Gail as she contemplates the information she’s learned about Jonas actually being named Gene. After talking with her arts and crafts class about it and revealing to them that she is Mennonite and therefore can’t see her groom before the ceremony, Gail decides to go through with the wedding while Jonas/Gene tries to catch Victor and stab him with a kitchen knife.

When the chase finds its way to the kitchen, Gary (A.D. Miles) reminds Jonas he’s getting married and Jonas shows up late to the ceremony only to have Waterville records clerk Jeff (Randall Park) interrupt during the objection part of the vows. “I know I hardly know you Gail, but in the short time we’ve spent together I’ve fallen madly passionately in love with you,” Jeff says. “So what do you say, give it a shot?” Jonas/Gene is surprisingly agreeable when Gail says she’s afraid if she doesn’t explore things with Jeff she might never be at peace. Just like that, Gail and Jeff are married and it’s being stood up at the altar, not murdering Victor that causes Jonas to complete his dramatic transformation into the Gene we know from the 2001 movie with a werewolf-style raising of the bandanna and instantaneous growth of facial hair.

whasfirstdayofcamp1x05wedding

While the action heats up at camp – and between Susie (Amy Poehler) and Claude Dumet (John Slattery), Greg (Jason Schwartzman) and Beth (Janeane Garofolo) are in Watertown hiding out from The Falcon with terrible disguises and even worse aliases. Seeking legal counsel they find a flier for attorney Jim Stansel (Michael Cera) in the trash and visit him at his seedy second floor office to show him the dot matrix printout of evidence against Xenstar. After seeing the printout, Stansel (aka Johnny Pisspot) says it could be “the biggest government conspiracy since Watergate, which was about seven years ago” and agrees to take the case after an impassioned plea from Beth.

While that storyline advances and the Coop, Donna and Yofar love triangle gets even less interesting, Lindsay (Elizabeth Banks) makes progress on her Rock & Roll World story when she convinces JJ (Zak Orth) to go with her to the broken down cabin to try and find Eric (Chris Pine). It turns out, the task isn’t very difficult (or scary). After walking into the cabin and giving a speech about how she believes in the “proto-punk genius of the Rockin’ Knights of Summer,” Eric melodramatically calls her a dumb teenager and tells her to leave and never come back. Lindsay’s speech, however, strikes a nerve. Right before the credits roll, we see Eric pick up his guitar and start strumming, the shock of light coming off the strings promising magic (and a certain song that features prominently in the movie) to come.

Notes:

-Susie has no tolerance for actors who don’t have “torments within them.” In a speech to Andy, she says, “Theater is fear, theater is pain, theater is now and it’s you.”

-Claude Dumet to Susie after she calls him Mr. Dumet: “Oh please, just call me Mr.”

-Ben (Bradley Cooper) and McKinley (Michael Ian Black) are great as usual when they keep saying what to each other during their private rehearsal of the Zoot Suit number for Electro City.

-“You’re Johnny Pisspot. Well, our government is taking a piss on the whole damn country. Isn’t that the public urination case of a lifetime.” -Beth

-Beth’s middle name is Archibald Doohickey, the fake name Greg gives the front desk at the hotel.

-Jonas is really terrible at hide and seek. Victor hides from Jonas in the kitchen by putting a pot on his head.

-After Eric kicks Lindsay out he stumbles to the fridge to get a drink, but instead of grabbing a beer we see him pull a tab off and drink a can of sugar free Tab soda.

 

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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