For starters, there’s nothing good about it.
The third and worst of SNL star Jason Sudekis’ trio of 2011 crappy raunch comedies, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, follows Hall Pass and Horrible Bosses as Exhibit C in the case that a certain performer should probably just stick to television.
Same goes for some folks behind the camera. Emmy nominated TV writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, who penned episodes of The Larry Sanders Show and King of the Hill, make their writing and directing debut with this flat farce that can’t seem to decide if it wants to be the Farrelly Brothers or The Big Chill.
Sudekis stars as Eric, an ambitionless 30-something cubicle drone who lives for the weekends, where he throws ridiculously expensive-looking theme parties at his father’s swanky summer house in the Hamptons. We meet Eric and pals in the midst of a “White Trash Bash,” where everybody wears fake mullet wigs, eats bean dip out of toilets and generally misbehaves in ways that presumably seemed amusing on paper.
Eric is constantly surrounded by his old high school friends, who in the interest of screenwriting efficiency have each been granted exactly one personality trait. There’s party animal McCrudden, played by Tyler Labine as a fat guy who falls down a lot. (Labine comes off as a poor man’s Jack Black, which is a very poor thing indeed.) Michelle Borth’s Sue has had a thing for Eric since high school, so she spends every waking moment staring at Sudekis with puppy dog eyes, yet the numbskull never notices. Laura (Lindsey Sloane) is shy, and that’s about it for her.
Nick Kroll’s nerdy Adam is usually glued to his BlackBerry, and even though he loses his job halfway through the picture he’s still always emailing … somebody? Lake Bell’s Allison is a therapist who’s more high-strung and neurotic than her patients, a tired trope that’s emblematic of Gregory’s and Huyck’s one-note, lame gag approach to character construction.
The first thing you’ll notice is that these folks all seem a bit long in the tooth to spend every weekend whooping it up like teenagers at a party spot owned by somebody’s dad. There are signs of encroaching maturity on the outskirts of the clique, with too-brief turns by Will Forte and Lucy Punch as a newlywed couple trying to juggle parenthood with all these party obligations. The bomb finally drops when Eric’s old man (a lovingly sleazy cameo by Don Johnson) decides to put his summer house on the market.
The stage is set for a coming-of-middle-age story, as it’s almost impossible to find a comedy these days that isn’t about overgrown adolescents slowly learning how to grow up. Following a logic that exists only in Hollywood pitch sessions and screenwriting manuals, Eric decides that the gang should bid adieu to the Hamptons house with … you guessed it, an orgy.
There’s a bit of lip service as to how this generation missed those heady days of sexual experimentation, as the terrifying specter of AIDS hit right about the same time as puberty. Aghast at these teenagers today and their freewheeling ways, our crew decides that they should loosen up and break a few boundaries. No points for guessing this is easier said than done.
Complicating matters even further is that Eric finds himself falling for the Realtor who’s trying to sell his father’s house. Played by Leslie Bibb, a nondescript beauty in an equally nondescript role, she’s another contrivance who gets lost on the movie’s already overcrowded stage.
Like everybody else in the picture, Eric isn’t offered much in the way of characterization, and Sudekis keeps proving over and over again this year that his smug smirk isn’t enough to carry a movie. That glib, self-satisfied quality extends to A Good Old Fashioned Orgy ’s filmmaking. Shot in adequate TV style reliant on medium shots and close-ups, the movie is nonetheless disastrously edited. Every one liner is followed by at least 10 seconds of dead air, as if the filmmakers were afraid the audiences’ laughter would drown out whatever followed. This means even the few halfway decent jokes are left hanging in the air like stale farts.
I guess you can give Gregory and Huyck credit for not chickening out on the orgy itself. Too bad every coupling results in a neat, tidy resolution to an underdeveloped subplot. Forget all the messiness of sex or complicated emotions, and don’t even think about anything vaguely erotic or transgressive. This is group sex as a series of happy sitcom endings. It’s like a group hug, only stickier.
Directors: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb and Tyler Labine