Sony // 2011 // 98 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // December 23rd, 2011
A comedy about old friends in new positions.
"Orgy! Orgy! Orgy!"
Every year, old pals Eric (Jason Sudeikis, Saturday Night Live), Alison (Lake Bell, How to Make it in America), Sue (Michelle Borth, Wonderland), Adam (Nick Kroll, The League), McCrudden (Tyler Labine, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Willow (Angela Sarafyan, Repo Chick), Laura (Lindsay Sloane, She's Out of My League) and Duquez (Martin Starr, Party Down) get together for a series of wild parties at the lavish summer home owned by Eric's father (Don Johnson, Miami Vice). However, Eric has just received some bad news: his dad is about to sell the house, meaning the parties are coming to an end. Desperate to throw a party to end all parties, Eric throws out a wild idea: what if the whole gang gets together and has an orgy? Eric's plan is largely rejected at first, but eventually all of the assorted players begin to warm up to the idea. Will the orgy be wild fun, or an incredibly awkward mistake?
In 2011, the Movie Gods decided that it was time for Saturday Night Live veteran Jason Sudeikis to take his place as a movie star. He was given a leading role in three different R-rated comedies, all of which are built around a fairly preposterous concept: Hall Pass (several guys are given permission to cheat on their wives for a week!), Horrible Bosses (several guys decide to murder their annoying employers!), and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (several guys and several girls who have been friends for many years decide to have an orgy). It's interesting to observe that while Sudeikis basically offers the same moderately engaging performance in all of these films, his likability is largely determined by how much tolerance we have for the film which surrounds him. In A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, he's fairly insufferable.
To be sure, it really isn't his fault. Sudeikis is the same glib, cheerful character he usually is, but this time he's working from a wretched screenplay that consistently mistakes shock value for laughs. There's precious little wit or intelligence to be found; the jokes feel as if they've been generated by a computer afflicted with malware. I don't know that I've seen another comedy as desperately raunchy as A Good Old Fashioned Orgy; it frantically throws out one filthy line after another in lamentably ineffective fashion. The film has a childish need to demonstrate its randy edge on every possible occasion; never allowing anything resembling real dialogue or normal behavior to enter the proceedings. They find a way to add R-rated content into every single moment, and the final effect is exhausting rather than exhilarating. Let's take a look at a few examples:
Situation: One character receives a text with some important information.
Solution: Have another grab the phone, stick it down his pants and rub it all over his crotch.
Situation: Two friends are grabbing a bite to eat.
Solution: Have one of the friends imagine that the waitress really wants to give him oral sex and then proceed to demonstrate how such a situation might play out.
Situation: The female characters are reminiscing about their high school
Solution: Have them reminisce about the penis size of the boys they knew back then.
And so it goes, for an increasingly torturous 98 minutes. The film's only achievement is actually delivering the orgy the title promises (though naturally this is shot with camera angles which obscure the naughty bits of the stars; full-blown nudity is mostly reserved for nameless extras who appear in other scenes), but the manner in which the event plays out is unconvincing. It's clear that the orgy sequence is aiming for crass sweetness, but it's hard to buy any of the developments which occur. Somehow, the night of debauchery solves everyone's personal problems, heals old wounds and allows childish grown-ups to properly segue into adulthood. I'm not saying that orgies can't be successful and fulfilling, but an orgy between lifelong friends (none of whom could be described as swingers)? I suspect that such an event would be excruciatingly awkward at best. Then again, I've never tried it, so what do I know? Maybe I should call up my old pals and...on second thought, maybe not.
The cast brings enthusiasm to the party, but absolutely no one is capable of transcending the material. Sudeikis tries to charm his way through the proceedings and ends up grating on our nerves. Tyler Labine tries his usual shtick, but ends up feeling like a third-rate Jack Black. Martin Starr brings his enjoyable deadpan persona, but isn't given any lines. Nick Kroll plays a straight man of sorts; definitely a role which wastes his comic talents. The central quartet of actresses are given even less to work with, as they have primarily been cast for their looks and have been given the thinnest of character types to work with (the shy one, the prettiest one, the one who's obsessed with one of the guys and the other one). Will Forte (The Brothers Solomon) and Lucy Punch (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) are kind of amusing as newlyweds pissed off about not being invited to the orgy, but they have very little screen time.
The DVD transfer is perfectly adequate, though the film looks cheaper and grimier than the average studio comedy (the lighting is low and the images occasionally look a little desaturated). The film's palette only adds to the sense that we're lounging around in a cheap cinematic motel. The audio track is perfectly adequate, with dialogue front and center most of the time. The party sequences are a bit chaotic, but they certainly won't challenge your speakers.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is a filthy comedy which fails to produce any genuine laughs. The result is a dull, slightly depressing viewing experience which ranks as a low point for almost everyone involved (freshman directors Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck can only go up from here). Skip the orgy.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site