Nostalgia and Hilarity Reign in ‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later’

When it first arrived 16 years ago, “Wet Hot American Summer” was a box office bomb with a stellar cast and an alt sense of humor. Now, all these years later, it’s spawned a cult following and two Netflix series — the latest of which, “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later” keeps the humor of the original alive with a dose of nostalgia that feels just right.

Picking up ten years later, as promised, in a scene from “Wet Hot,” “Ten Years Later” follows our favorite junior counselors as they reunite while navigating their mid-to-late 20s and the early 90s. Love struck Coop (Michael Showalter)  is a writer looking for an ending to his memoir (a joke in and of itself), the object of his affection Katie (Marguerite Moreau) is a high-powered cosmetics VP, McKinley (Michael Ian Black) and Ben (played by Adam Scott for a hilariously specific reason) are a happy couple with a child, and Susie (Amy Poehler) is a Hollywood producer with a hot actor boyfriend (the not terrible Jai Courtenay). Andy, played by Paul Rudd, is struggling with being an “old man” and a still terrible person.

Like its predecessor, “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” some previously unseen campers are added to the mix. This time, it’s Claire and Mark (Sarah Burns and Mark Feuerstein), who are digitally inserted into a couple key scenes in flashback, and treated as if they’ve always been part of the group. Alyssa Milano also joins the cast as the seemingly perfect nanny for McKinley and Ben, showing some long dormant comedy chops and fitting in with the house style of “Wet Hot” with ease.

Writing about humor is difficult, especially “Wet Hot”s’ low-key mix of meta and absurd. But perhaps more than “First Day of Camp,” “Ten Years Later” recaptures the tone of the original, while heightening at the same time. The meta tone is struck perfectly with comments about finishing conversations later, “in episode four,” or when an ex-girlfriend hands back a box of personal items that includes rollerblades “and other stuff from 1991.” New traditions abound as well, such as a call and response gag or “the spirit of Camp Firewood,” played off as if these have always been part of the continuity.

The show’s absurdity comes from a variety of elements, like Chris Pine’s return, teased in the trailer, that is just delightfully bonkers and played to perfection by the handsome star. There’s also a plot between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush that is so silly, it involves a lengthy explanation within the context of the series. And of course, there’s the beloved can of vegetables, Mitch (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), still overseeing the camp and reuniting with his best buddy Gene (Christopher Meloni).

If there’s any hindrance to the amusement of the sequel, it’s the overly complicated plots referenced above. The laughs in this series come easiest when the story is kept simple. It helps highlight amusingly dark turns for characters, or even just the casual stupidity of practicing archery and hitting young campers with arrows (something that totally happens).

Even with an overstuffed plot, “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later” is a must see for fans, offering a potential, and satisfying, conclusion to the story of the campers and counselors of Camp Firewood.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later” premieres on Netflix Aug. 4.