I recognized it from the first couple of chords in a flashback, but it make have taken others some time to realize the way that "Higher and Higher" from Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp connects to the original film. It's a great payoff that this one song inspires the staff of Camp Firewood in so many ways, from the first day of camp to the very last. Let's compare "Higher and Higher" from Wet Hot American Summer the series and the film. While only one of the two features the hilarious Chris Pine, his spirit lives on and his story will be told for summers to come.
Since the reboot hit Netflix, a fandom fire has ignited and everyone is excited about how well this prequel to the 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer, which has been talked about for a while, actually happened and came through. As the show "teaches" us, what better way to unite than with music? Whether you are creating your own First Day of Camp soundtrack or watching your favorite musical scenes over and over, they sure know how to create an earworm. However, "Higher and Higher" served a different purpose originally. Both scenes have their own story, references, and strengths. Here's a breakdown.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Sung By: Chris Pine as "Eric"
The Story: After a dramatic kiss between Andy and Katie during a production of Electric City, the rich kids of the evil Camp : storm Camp Firewood at the bequest of Katie's boyfriend, Blake. Luckily, the reclusive rock star Eric puts an end to the rumble with this song "about friendship," and they immediately start to dance and accompany him instead.
Parodying: Almost Famous, West Side Story, School of Rock, Footloose, Back To The Future, and really any movie in which the power of music, most often rock and roll specifically, saves the day.
Rad Factor: Infinite. The joyful sense of community in this performance takes the awesome over the edge. Instruments appear out of nowhere and everyone knows the words, even though that makes no sense! Plus, the song was teased in Eric's story throughout previous episodes, so the final product is extra rad.
Wet Hot American Summer
Sung By: Craig Wedren and Theodore Shapiro, the composers.
The Story: After a dramatic rejection by Katie and mean encounter with Andy, our hero Coop stomps around Camp Firewood, both angry and depressed that he's still not Katie's boyfriend. Luckily, a newly enlightened Gene turns up and teaches him about the "new way" through a series of exercises set to this song.
Parodying: Rocky, Footloose, Karate Kid, and really any movie that involves a training montage.
Rad Factor: Inspiring, but moderate. It's pretty rad to see the mopey Coop have a moment of triumph. However, we don't get all of the nonsensical lyrics in the original. It's silly, but a different kind of silly than the show.
To borrow a trope that Showalter and Wain's comedy They Came Together poked fun at, this song is so important to the story that it's almost like another character in the movie. Personally, I think the post-punk ballad's epic backstory enhances its place in the movie. You can have a favorite version if you like, but they're both vital to the lore of Camp Firewood.