A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
Sony Pictures // Unrated // $26.99 // December 27, 2011
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted December 29, 2011
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In 10 Words or Less
A wonderfully funny cast in a somewhat funny sex comedy

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Great ensemble casts, Jason Sudekis, Nick Kroll, Will Forte
Likes: Tyler Labine, Martin Starr
Dislikes: Most sex comedies, the Hamptons
Hates: The lack of orgies in my lifetime

The Movie
They say that adolescence has become an extended portion of life these days, as young people don't enter adulthood until much later in life, whether delayed by choice or because they simply aren't encouraged or prodded to grow up. While the appeal of living in your parents' house and not accepting true responsibility for your life and actions is undeniable, being a big boy has its benefits as well (and I'll let you know what they are as soon as I find them.) So it wouldn't be too surprising to go back to the hedonistic world of American Pie (a film that shares a lot in common with A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy) and find the lead characters, 12 years later, still acting like the teenagers they were. (And if that's not how the upcoming American Reunion plays out, I will be sincerely shocked.)

That's exactly the case for Eric (SNL's Jason Sudekis) and his buddies, who live mostly unfulfilling lives inbetween blow-out parties at his dad's house in the Hamptons on Long Island. But all the fun is about to come to screeching halt because their oasis is about to be sold out from under them by Eric's father (Don Johnson) and with it their true reason for living. So instead of taking it as a call to action to find true meaning in life, they use it as an opportunity to plan one last hurrah in the form of an orgy between eight long-time friends. As one would expect this leads to a lot of excitement, second-guessing and discomfort as the big day nears, with the looming cloud of adulthood hanging over them as well.

Now, thinking back to my own circle of friends in college, no matter how many ways they coupled in various permutations, I can't imagine the group would have found themselves up for an orgy, but I've never claimed to be average, so perhaps the free-love mentality at work with these friends isn't a flight of erotic fantasy. Either way, the majority of this film is neither about the sexy-time or its repercussions, but rather the lead-up, and that's about as real as it gets, as any situation so charged with sexuality is bound to create tension, anxiety and any number of other emotions, and considering how valuable humor is as a coping mechanism, a group of friends dealing with such a bacchanal is bound to crack some jokes.

So, if you've got a group of very funny friends, the jokes are bound to be quite good. Well, this is a group of very funny friends, led by Sudekis, who can be a leading man and a complete goofball, and his sidekick Mike, played by the underrated Tyler Labine, who broke out in the criminally unseen series Reaper and uses his calculated manic energy to bring a spark to a scene when needed, without becoming overbearing. The rest of the main cast is loaded with strong talent, including Nick Kroll, playing another of his neurotic creations; Lake Bell, as a hot therapist with issues; and Martin Starr, finally going against type as a budding rock star with a hippie girlfriend; but TV actress Michelle Borth (Tell Me You Love Me) stays right with them, making her character Sue into the kind of coarse funny chick who would have fit in well in Bridesmaids. Throw in some cameos by the brilliant Will Forte, David Koechner and Lucy Punch and you've got a wealth of comedy chops on display.

Considering that, you'd think the film would be funnier than it is. Part of the problem is the way the film tries to have it both ways with the characters, playing it raunchy and rude one minute, only to turn around and go for emotion and drama the next. This makes for an uneven film, and for as good as this group is at getting laughs, pathos is not their strong point. And after hanging out with this crew through a white trash party, a "pro" orgy scene (offering the only genuine nudity and sex in the movie) and some general goofiness, the last thing you're looking for is a deflating clash amongst friends. It's like the comedy equivalent of anti-Viagra. That's not to say there's not funny stuff going on, as Sudekis and Labine's reactions at the "pro" orgy are great and Kroll continues to prove my willingness to watch anything he's in is not misguided. However, you just keep hoping it will all just get funnier.

To think this film could reach a satisfying climax would be an exercise in futility, as no matter what happened at the titular event, it couldn't live up to any expectations one might have. But the way it plays out, it is quite labored, even if there are funny notes here and there, mainly from Sudekis and Labine (with a touch of Kroll.) But all the extended near-nudity and non-erotic hijinks end up making the eventual finale entirely anti-climactic, if not utterly pointless. It's so unsatisfying, that as the film fades to black, I entirely expected a Fast Times-style epilogue telling us where each character ended up, just so the growing-up storyline has some closure.

A one-disc release packed in a standard keepcase, this DVD has a static, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to play the film, select scenes, adjust languages and check out the extras. Audio options include English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, while subtitles are available in English, English SDH and French.

The Quality
The visual presentation on this anamorphic widescreen transfer is a bit uneven, with some scenes looking like the are part of the best preserved '80s film ever, while others offer your average high-quality DVD visuals (which is thankfully the majority of the film.) The color is appropriate throughout, if a touch muted, while the level of fine detail is rather high, though the black levels could be a bit deeper. Overall it's a solid looking flick, and there are no noticeable concerns about digital distractions.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is what you'd expect from a dialogue-first comedy, with the dialogue delivered up-front and center, while the surrounds are mainly used to enhance the soundtrack and offer a few minor sound effects. There are no problems with distortion, but there's also nothing is terms of a real dynamic mix, as the film just doesn't lend itself to one.

The Extras
Writer/directors Gregory and Huyck are joined by Sudekis for an audio commentary on the film, where they have a fun time chatting about the making of the movie, talking about the inspiration for many of the film's characters and the low-budget production. It's the kind of conversational track that appeals to both film fans and casual viewers, but it's a bit of a tease, as many alternate joke improvisations are mentioned, but can't be found on the DVD.

10 deleted scenes are included, running over 16 minutes long, which can be run in one long reel or individually. In actuality, it's only a few deleted scenes and mostly extended scenes, some of which are longer just by a line or two, and one of which is mainly just edited into a different order. None of it is particularly interesting, though getting a touch more Forte is never a bad deal. More cut footage is found in the five-minute gag reel, which has a few laughs (and a look at a particularly famed unit from the film)

The extras wrap with "How to Film an Orgy" a behind the scenes featurette that checks in at over eight minutes, with interviews and on-set footage. Watching the cast interview each other, and hearing about their experiences during the production, it's pretty obvious they had a good time making the movie, and their enthusiasm is rather infectious.

An assortment of trailers are also included.

The Bottom Line
Is this a great movie? No. Is it an opportunity to watch a great cast have a good time in a later-life coming-of-age comedy? Absolutely. The best way to approach a film like this is just to keep your expectations low, and perhaps you'll be surprised. The quality of the presentation is pretty good, and the extras are solid for a lesser-known flick, so at least you'll get enough out of it if you do check it out.

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