A GOOD OLD FASHIONED ORGY Review

     September 2, 2011

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I didn’t want to write this review because it would involve me giving more thought to repulsive, selfish characters who populate a comedy that’s almost entirely devoid of laughs.  There’s something fascinating about a movie that sets up jokes and then forgets to deliver a punchline.  And because awful character delivering non-jokes isn’t enough, the film is saddled with limp, thoughtless direction that misses every opportunity for a laugh.   When A Good Old Fashioned isn’t being clichéd, it’s being dull, and sometimes it’s both, but it’s hardly ever funny.

Eric (Jason Sudeikis) and his shallow friends have been taking advantage of Eric’s father’s beach house for a decade.  They believe their parties such as “Oktoberfest in July” and “White Trash Bash” are legendary and it’s their sole respite from their meaningless lives.  When Eric’s father (Don Johnson) decides to sell the property, Eric decides that instead of pooling his money together with his friends and simply buying the house, they should go out with one crazy bash and it doesn’t get much crazier than an orgy.

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There’s something to be said for a character who is so disconnected from intimacy or reality that he wants to jump in a sex-pile with his lifelong friends as if it were any other party.  Things that could be said for this character: disgusting, sad, pathetic, and slightly psychotic.  The film then churns through the ensemble as each character, feeling some sadness or longing in their life, decides “What the fuck.  I’ll fuck.”  At no point does anyone say, “Guys, this could ruin our friendship and I don’t want to do this not because I’m uptight but because I would hate to wake up in the morning and have everything changed between us.”  That would be a response a relatable, mature human being would make.

The premise of friends stupidly deciding to have an orgy could work but not with a cast that’s in their early-to-mid 30s.  A group of college kids scared of entering the real world?  Absolutely.  The sex comedy genre tends to use characters in their late-teens to early 20s because we can believe people in that age range would take that chance and the story could be used it in a weird-but-understandable coming-of-age way.  But for the characters in A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, everything reeks of desperation and the movie rewards them for that desperation as if this quest were a noble endeavor.

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This grotesque appreciation could be palpable if the film were funny, but it’s not.  Not even close.  Every fifteen minutes you’ll get one solid joke.  It’s a 90-minute movie.  Even if you bought a ticket at a matinee showing, you would be paying more than a dollar per joke.  In between you’ll be treated to a fine mixture of tedium and sadness.  It’s amazing how writer-directors Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck can miss every single opportunity for a laugh.  When Eric is trying to remember at which of his parties he met his boring love-interest Kelly (Leslie Bibb), he rattles off a couple party titles and neither is that funny.  Gregory and Huyck get even lazier by not at least cutting away to give us a glimpse of those parties.  It is a prime comic opportunity and like so many others, the film just lets it slip away.

But that would take an iota of creativity and effort and AGOFO has no energy for that.  Instead it piles on tired and familiar roles like best friend party animal McCrudden (Tyler Labine), the uptight businessman Adam who needs to cut loose (Nick Kroll), conservative shy girl Laura (Lindsay Sloane), pretentious know-it-all Alison (Lake Bell) and other stock characters that have one defining trait and the depth of a perfectly flat surface.  I began to wonder if Gregory and Huyck had come from the wilderness and didn’t understand how people act or how modern society works.  When the gang attends the wedding of their friends Glenn (Will Forte) and Kate (Lucy Punch), Glenn and Kate sit by themselves at a small table in the corner at the reception.  No one’s coming over to congratulate them nor are they going around talking to their guests.  Or when Eric drowns Adam’s Blackberry in the swimming pool, it kills Adam’s million-dollar business deal because those kinds of deals live or die on a single goddamn Blackberry.

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When the movie does finally churn its way to the orgy, I realized I don’t want to see these people have sex or be happy in anyway.  I wanted them to all die from alcohol poisoning from the liquor they keep chugging in order to wear away their inhibitions.*  If A Good Old Fashioned Orgy had ended with someone walking into the beach house and discovering the stench of stale sex and fresh corpses, the entire film would have been redeemed.  But that would have been funny, creative, and unexpected—three traits completely foreign to this excruciating movie.

Rating: F

*Side note: wearing away those inhibitions only works on women.  The film has no problem having the female characters get it on but all it can muster between two male characters is a skittish peck on the lips.  It’s par for the course on a movie that takes zero chances.

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