In the year of our Lord 2017, The War of the Chrises ended. A long-gestating and confounding battle between movie stars with similar names, similar roles, and similar skin tones, came to a close. Chris Evans (the Captain in “Captain America”), Chris Hemsworth (the Thor in “Thor”), Chris Pratt (a guardian in “Guardians of the Galaxy”), and Chris Pine (the dude in “Wonder Woman”) laid down their super weapons and bowed down to the king.
You need not ask who won. You already know.
Let King Pine’s reign never end.
Now, before we get too much further into this review of “Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later,” it should be noted that King Pine isn’t a prominent figure in David Wain and Michael Showalter’s eight, cheery new episodes. King Pine is emblematic of what makes this Netflix original series better than the last, even though he’s only in a couple of episodes. He doesn’t even have the season’s best joke. That title belongs to the casting department and the two co-creators. Really, it belongs to whoever came up with the solution to Bradley Cooper’s absence.
Though the Oscar-nominated movie star played a key role in the original film and returned for Netflix’s prequel series, “First Day of Camp,” he’s not in “10 Years Later.” [Editor’s Note: Light spoilers follow.] But instead of writing around his character, Wain, Showalter, and casting directors Nicole Abellera and Jeanne McCarthy made a critical choice befitting the new episodes’ wacky, heavily meta sense of humor.
They recast his part. They recast him with Adam Scott.
Revealed in the very first episode after panning over a group of photos featuring Cooper and Michael Ian Black, as camp boyfriends-turned-husbands Ben and McKinley, we see not Cooper but Scott’s face turn to camera, hidden under a luxurious mane of brown hair. The joke is an instant hint. Pausing just long enough to make you think it’s a star turn for Cooper, the pivot is rewarding because, among many reasons, audiences are always happy to see Adam Scott.
It also sets up the sequel season’s confident, cavalier attitude. The creators aren’t abiding by rules set up in the past. They’re making “10 Years Later” with the same spirit as the original, but they’re not beholden to every individual piece of it. By keeping Ben as a character and embracing the obvious casting switch as much as they ignore it, Wain and Showalter establish a loose vibe and discourage a literal interpretation of the plot (which is thrown out the window by the end). It allows for a lot of fun, including furthering its best bit.
The joke of who’s playing Ben — yes, this is still what we’re talking about — is smoothly extended with smart, subtle touches: Ben’s fear of looking different because of his “nose job” allows for plenty of references to how handsome he is compared to his old self, and there’s even a “Parks and Recreation” reunion with Amy Poehler that feels all the more special because their “Wet Hot” and “Parks” characters were both close.
But this article wasn’t top-lined by Adam Scott (in part because spoiler-phobia prohibits ruining the joke). It’s about King Pine, and King Pine deserves equally exhaustive consideration. [Editor’s Note: For those who braved the first spoiler-alert, we warn you again: Pine-related spoilers follow.]
Continue reading for more on Chris Pine and the final grade.