Friday, September 2, 2011

A Whimper, Not A Bang: A Good Old Fashioned Orgy



This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

For most, Labor Day weekend officially marks the end of summer, and the comedy "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" is an appropriate end-of-summer movie, since it, too, partially takes place on Labor Day. It is also the latest in a long string of disappointing summer comedies.

Jason Sudeikis, who MUST be leaving "Saturday Night Live" any day now, stars as Erik, a thirtysomething professional who hosts wild theme parties every summer at his family's Hamptons estate.

You know, things like "The White Trash Bash," complete with fake mullets, tractor races, and wandering cows. When his father, (played in a cameo by Don Johnson), decides to sell the place, Erik decides that he and his group of stalwart friends will have to end their summer with the most hedonistic party he can think of: an orgy. (A good, old-fashioned kind.)

Most of the movie consists of Erik slowly convincing his friends to go along with the idea. His right-hand horndog McCrudden immediately leaps on board, but that comes as no surprise since he's played by actor Tyler Labine, and he's basically playing the same character he did on the TV shows "Reaper" and "Mad Love."

The rest of the cast are comedy veterans as well, which makes it that much more surprising that the film is as unfunny as it is. There's no sense of natural comedic rhythm in any of their banter, giving the impression that they were sticking closely to an unfunny script, with no room for improvisation. I know that Martin Starr, Lake Bell, and Nick Kroll are capable of being much funnier than they are here.

And it's a crime that Lucy Punch and Will Forte are basically relegated to the sidelines as the married couple who resent being left out of the orgy. I seriously cannot remember a single line of dialogue I laughed at, though I do remember cringing at what was supposed to be a hilarious comedic riff on cervical cancer.

It's not giving anything away to say that the orgy does, indeed, happen. But here the movie seems to lose its nerve, never knowing whether it wants to dive into the laughs found in far raunchier comedies, or the emotion seen in more indie fare. (I was reminded of the mumblecore comedy "Humpday," about two straight male friends who decide to make a gay porno film. That film took a risky sexual premise, but played it straight--no pun intended--and as a result had more genuine laughs.) Ultimately, it doesn't commit to either, and instead putters along in its safe R-rated way.

Now, I haven't seen all the comedies released this summer, (and Jason Sudeikis starred in three of them), but aside from "Bridesmaids," I have to say, what I did see was depressingly bad, and with the addition of "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," this summer season of movie comedies ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.

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