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Movie review: 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy'

Jason Sudeikis and Tyler Labine are the main party animals in the Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck's uneven comedy.

September 02, 2011|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

Here's the major take-away from the raunchy new comedy "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy" — it's not a good idea. Even with booze to blur the vision and the thinking, there are still some things best left undone where friends are concerned. Uh, right.

In fact, and I'm pretty sure this has been documented by serious scientific research, for most folks, getting naked and having group sex with friends is close to the top of the better-not-go-there list. However, that scientifically salient fact does make this movie about regular folks contemplating some outside-the-box behavior more amusing than you might expect, but probably not by much.

Discretion definitely does not deter "Old Fashioned Orgy's" big cast of mostly not-so-hard-or-hot bodies, with Jason Sudeikis and Tyler Labine the main party animals. Sudeikis, by now an "SNL" veteran player, has been elbowing his way into more and more films — this is his third this summer. "Orgy," however, is the first to elevate him from bland best buddy (as he was for Owen Wilson in "Hall Pass") to leading man status. Though with Jason Bateman and Paul Rudd dominating the nice-guy-as-leading-man category at the moment, Sudeikis doesn't seem quite ready to play in prime time.

Meanwhile, Labine knows how to undress for success as McCrudden, the unfiltered and unrestrained adolescent in a pudgy male body that every orgy apparently needs. You may or may not remember Labine as Drunk Customer in 2008's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," but it had similar themes of the difficulty of getting naked with others who are significant, but who are not significant others.

It's an important distinction and one that Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, the writing/directing team behind "Old Fashioned Orgy," set out to have some fun with. This is their directing debut, a modest one considering their immodest topic. Previous writing credits, which include Letterman's late-'90s era "Late Show," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "King of the Hill," give you a good sense of their sensibility: sardonic, self-deprecating and smarter than the movie's subject matter might suggest.

Everything is tied to a summer house in the Hamptons where Eric's (Sudeikis) theme parties are legendary. But some rain is about to ruin Eric's summer plans — dad (Don Johnson) wants to unload the property, the better to woo a young girlfriend. The dilemma for Eric becomes how to give the old place a final send-off worthy of its debauched history. Since "White Trash" weekend was the theme party that opened the movie, an orgy, old-fashioned or otherwise, doesn't seem like such a stretch.

Yet it is. That's where the movie expends most of its energy as Eric and all his best buddies debate whether they should or shouldn't, then move on to research how to orgy, decide who's in and who's out, and figure out ways to distract the Realtors. Throwing away for-sale signs is a big one, yawn. The other big idea is for Eric to romance the younger blond one (Leslie Bibb).

Let me just take a moment to point out another truth that "Orgy" underscores (and anyone who has ever thrown a party knows all too well) — planning is not the fun part. So if you're going to put a lot of your comedy chips on that, you better be really, really inventive. At best, the jokey bits are occasionally funny.

For all the early hemming and hawing, when the movie does finally get around to the orgy, things get, well, hairy. No performance anxiety there. If anything, there's enough skin on display in the most compromising and unflattering ways that you can't help but envy director of photography John Thomas. At least he got paid to look.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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