YesFlix/NoFlix: The Rewrite Vs. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
We have a first time occurrence for myself on this particular edition of Yesflix/NoFlix. Generally, when browsing Netflix for two selections that we wish to cover, there is a pre-conceived notion about which one will fall under the ‘Yes’ category and which will fall under the ‘No’ category. That is to say, we choose one that we believe will be bad and the other we’ll have heard is good or at least more tolerable through word of mouth.
Would you believe that a movie starring Hugh Grant as a misogynist, arrogant film writer would be more entertaining than H. Jon Benjamin (the voice of Archer) as a boisterous summer camp counsellor?
I cannot imagine anybody reading this would choose the former over the latter and yet here I am to tell you exactly why you should.
Yesflix – The Rewrite
Hugh Grant is Marmite. There is a very distinctive flavour to his work. If you enjoyed the bumbling charmer in 1995, then you are in great luck as the taste is roughly the same twenty years later. He isn’t for everyone. He isn’t for me, personally. However, once in a while he picks up a role that skews this image of his awkward gentleman persona. The Rewrite tells the story of a formerly major Hollywood screenwriter named Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant). Back in 1999, he created a script inspired by his son that earned him an Oscar in writing for screen. This grand accomplishment has been the entire benchmark of his career. The two films that he penned afterwards were bombs. Keith in the present day is struggling to find his identity as a writer as he can’t seem to get a script green lit to save his life. As his promising career is slumping, an olive branch is offered as a teaching job comes his way; Binghamton University enlists him as a professor for their newly created screenwriting course.
We quickly learn that Hugh Grant is playing the familiar jittery-but-eloquent lead in The Rewrite. The difference here being that his character is not meant to be liked. His thoughts on writing are outdated, he looks down upon the empowerment of women in cinema, he expresses little interest in teaching as he believes his subject is purely based on having natural talent, he selects candidates for his class based on appearance and this is coupled with a host of other unfavourable aspects of his personality that crop up.
Our leading actress, Marisa Tomei, is the yin to his yang. Holly (Marisa) is a single mother and a student who shares ideals of positivity and hard work as being the key to success. Throughout the unprofessional tenure of Keith as a teacher, Holly above all the students seeks to understand why he has such a jaded view of the world. This is primarily a love story with comedy elements. Moments of humour stem from Grant making idiotic comments, only to be shut down by one of his students (who exhibit talent beyond him in some regards) and Tomei being the ever vigilant friend keeping him on course. Without spoiling the later half of the movie, I will say that the character is humbled by his peers and is forgiven upon apologising profusely for his ignorant views. My only major detraction from this is that he is forgiven a little too leniently for my liking, but this was never going to be a huge commentary on putting a misogynist in his place. It is first and foremost a romance. It excels mainly in some of its observations about screen-writing being surprisingly poignant for a film of its variety. This is by no means a great movie, but it is worth a gander.
Fans of The Office, Little Miss Sunshine and rom-coms will LOVE this!
Noflix – Wet Hot American Summer: First Day At Camp
It is difficult to know where to begin with this one. Perhaps the cast list will give you an idea of the expectations I had for this. Wet Hot American Summer: FDAC stars Amy Poehler, Joe Lo Truglio, H. Jon Benjamin, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper and Janeane Garofalo among others. This is an extremely talented group of comedy actors. A remarkable display of neglect for these individuals is shown plainly in this series when each of them get relegated to the sidelines in favour of a decidedly bland main story over the course of eight episodes. WHAS has a lot of story threads that start and have zero payoff in terms of humour.
It is a bizarre myriad of thrown-together wacky situations without dialogue that offers even a chuckle. Our lead is an actor from the original movie that came out in 2001 (which this is a prequel of) and exhibits all the comedic chops of your dad telling his finest puns that you have heard since you were a kid. Michael Showalter is his name. He plays Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg, a hopelessly in love man-child who seeks a relationship with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl played by Lake Bell.
There are brief spatters of promise amongst the bleak void of anti-humour, though. Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper play two excitable camp counsellors who teach performing arts. Paul Rudd plays an obnoxious sex-obsessed loser who tries desperately to be cool in every scene. Elizabeth Banks plays a reporter looking for a good scoop in the camp by posing as a 16-year-old. These four well-known actors are great at the craft and give the best performance with the characters they have been given. You will quickly realise that you are always just waiting for these four to come back on-screen and perhaps say something funny.
Unfortunately, there is nothing noticeably humorous in their scenes, we just identify them as likeable, funny actors. Comparatively to Michael Showalter, they are a blessing when they are actually utilised. Showalter‘s screen-hogging mainly involves him bemoaning the unrequited love of the Manic Pixie Girl and seeing a lot of himself in a young boy who attends the camp. Interesting characters such as H. Jon Benjamin‘s Mitch are largely downplayed despite an obviously great performance waiting to burst out of him. If this had been written by Archer creator Adam Reed, we would have seen some better executed and sharper written scenes with this character. You may not be surprised to hear that this was actually written by show front man, Michael Showalter and the writer of the pretty okay LARP-ing comedy Role Models, David Wain.
I’m unsure if this is a cultural difference in regards to Ireland and America, but this type of prepubescent ‘burp and fart’ comedy has no sense of wit. I think that visual gags and slapstick are what they were trying to go for, but none of what they were putting out landed on me. As a person who loves to laugh, particularly at some of the shows these actors have been part of in the past, I was sincerely disappointed. Truthfully, the best way I can sum up my feelings is that I really just don’t get it. It is a steam engine that never seems to reach its destination of attaining an actual punchline. Other than the four previous actors I mentioned, there was never a moment where I was on the cusp of letting out a laugh as my expression was one of pure confusion. Baffling is a good word for it all. Upon finishing the eight episodes the only question on my mind was, is that it?
And it was! Unfortunately!
That was all to see (lest I’m brave enough to tackle the movie of the same name). It was a series that felt like the first draft that a 14-year-old boy lobbed out, because he wanted to emulate his screwball comedy idol, Tom Green. Enough said!
Fans of Parks and Recreation and Archer will HATE this!