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Good Old Fashioned Orgy, A
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by Peter Sobczynski

"So Much For Spending Labor Day Weekend On Lake Bell"
1 stars

It stands to reason that if one hopes to make a successful cinematic sex comedy, it would help the cause immensely if the film in question managed to be both sexy and funny, possibly even at the same time. Alas, as many of those who have attempted to do such things over the years have discovered, this is a feat easier said than done because while most audiences can usually find common ground when it comes to things that are tragic or frightening, we all have very different and often very specific things that arouse us and amuse us and it takes exceptional skill to not only hit upon the kind of sexy/silly elements that will attract most viewers but to deploy them with enough dexterity to ensure that one doesn't inadvertently impede upon the other. Done correctly, as in such examples as Blake Edwards' 1979 classic "10" or the more recent "Friends with Benefits," and the end result is a film that can inspire ha-ha's and homina-homina's in equal measure. Done incorrectly, as is more often then case, and the result is a film along the lines of "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," a big-screen cold shower for anyone looking for a combination of titters and titillation this Labor Day weekend--both of which are few and far between in a rancid little farce whose sole redeeming virtue is that it isn't quite as all-out loathsome as the blink-and-you-hopefully-missed-it "Swinging with the Finkels."

The film centers on a group of old high-school pals--Eric (Jason Sudekis), Sue (Lake Bell), Sue (MIchelle Borth)Adam (Nick Kroll), McCrudden (Tyler Lahine), Laura (Lindsay Sloane) and Duquez (Martin Starr)--who have continued their partying ways every summer into their 30's with a never-ending series of ironically-themed bashes held at the sprawling beach house owned by Eric's dad (Don Johnson. . .yes, Don Johnson). Alas, the party appears to be over for good when Dad appears and announces that he has put the house on the market. While attempting to prevent the property from being sold, Eric begins dreaming up concepts for one final blowout and, after hearing some scandalous tales of what the high school kids are allegedly up to these days and realizing that his age group missed out on all the sexcapades of previous and subsequent generations thanks to AIDS and whatnot, he hits upon the idea of holding a genuine orgy involving only the core group and Duquez's hottie girlfriend Willow (Angela Sarafyan). Naturally, the gang is at first reticent to the idea for all the obvious reasons but as the summer goes on, they all finally warm to the idea. One minor problem is that Eric has no idea of what actually transpires at an orgy outside of the basics and so sets off on a recon mission at a local sex club that meets after hours in a mattress warehouse in a sequence that allows David Koechner to make an appearance in a film this summer even more mortifying than his turn in "Final Destination 5" and allows audiences to queasily question the sanctity of any recently purchased bedding. A bigger problem is that as time progresses, Eric meets and falls for Kelly (Leslie Bibb), who just happens to be the Realtor charged with selling the house, and he is forced into the tricky position of keeping her from selling the house before the end of the season while also keeping her in the dark about the upcoming festivities.

Although the concept of an orgy between friends may seem unspeakably depressing and discomforting as the subject of any film, let alone a comedy, I am willing to concede that it could have potentially been developed into something both funny and insightful--sort of a ribald goof on the likes of "The Big Chill" with fewer suicides and more nookie. The trouble with "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" is that writer-directors Alex Gregory & Peter Hyuck seem to have exhausted all their reserves of ingenuity and wit on the title and were left with nothing for the film itself. As a result, we are treated to the usual array of sniggering sex jokes (would you believe that the nerdiest guy in the group turns out to be the most endowed?), lame pop culture references, ham-fisted sentiment and general idiocy, all of which are delivered with so little panache that watching the film almost makes one yearn for the comparatively quiet dignity of "Hall Pass." Sure, the film is plenty vulgar--those of you with a fetish for former New Line Cinema symbol Lin Shaye will no doubt find your particular quirk either satisfied or cured after seeing her here--but it makes the rookie mistake of assuming that vulgarity in and of itself is amusing. It can be funny when used as part of a fully conceived comedic sequence (such as the franks-n-beans and hair gel gags from "There's Something About Mary") but on its own, it generally tends to be little more than vaguely unpleasant at best and gross at worst (such as practically everything on display here).

The performances are also nothing to shout home about either--Sudekis just rehashes the genial horndog character that he played in "Hall Pass" and any number of forgettable "SNL" skits, Lahine spends so much time channeling Jack Black's blowhard persona without infusing it with any of the inherent likability that makes that persona likable and the others are so bland as to be completely forgettable even while they are there on the screen. Will Forte and Lucy Punch turn up in supporting roles as married friends of the group who resent that they haven't been invited to the party and attempt to crash the proceedings; they are actually pretty funny and so naturally, the film endeavors to keep them off the screen as often as possible. Frankly, the best performance comes from none other than Don Johnson himself--he only has one scene to speak of but brings enough personality to the proceedings to make you wish that he would turn up more often in the film. (Imagine him turning up during the orgy and jumping in to show the kids how these things are done.) By my calculations, this makes the second time in the space of one year, following "Machete," in which I have seen a film that could have been instantly improved by the addition of more Don Johnson. Clearly this means that either Hollywood needs to get off its collective duff and start giving him lead roles again or I have to figure out a cure for my long-running obsession with the sheer awesomeness that is "Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man."

To give "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" a meager bit of credit, the film avoids chickening out on its conceit and does indeed climax, as it were, with an extended orgy sequence. However, while it gets some points for sticking with its premise instead of having it fall apart before it starts, all of those point and many more are immediately taken away from the lamely antiseptic manner in which they sequence is filmed. The sequence is hilarious but not because of all the limp gags on display, most of which you could probably enumerate without even seeing the thing, but because of the ridiculous lengths that the filmmakers have gone through in order to protect the presumed modesty of the cast. With maybe one or two brief exceptions, everything remotely resembling the naughty bits and the adjacent real estate is either thoroughly covered up, even in the midst of the action, or shot with camera angles that are determined not to capture anything that could possibly turn up on the internet in a few weeks. This is not to say that I especially wanted to see loads of hard-core nudity--the kind of thing that can either kill the right laughs in a comedy or inspire the wrong ones--but the film takes these preventative measures to such extremes that they make the near-nudity gags in the "Austin Powers" movies look classy by comparison. In the end, however, it is especially ironic that the filmmakers have spent so much time and energy trying to prevent showing off the bodies of the actors because as soon as word of this movie gets out, most of them will probably find themselves wishing that they had their faces covered instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22354&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/02/11 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  02-Sep-2011 (R)
  DVD: 27-Dec-2011

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Sep-2011
  DVD: 27-Dec-2011




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