The absurd title of writer-directors Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck’s movie — with its blend of the lewd and sweet — could be an indicator of watered-down comedic cop-out, but this romp about a group of longtime pals who decide to get horizontal with one another is the real deal, delivering amply on every level in which it chooses to engage. Powered by palpable chemistry amongst its many co-leads, an affable sense of purpose, and plenty of smart timing and whip-smart humor, this sex farce amusingly showcases both the titillation and wild discomfort of its perhaps farfetched concept.
The story centers around Eric (Saturday Night Live‘s Jason Sudeikis), an amiable thirtysomething New Yorker who doesn’t much care for his job, and instead lives for the summer, when he can repair to his father’s house in the Hamptons and throw elaborate weekend theme parties with a group of longtime friends that includes Mike (Tyler Labine, above left), Adam (Nick Kroll), Laura (Lindsay Sloane), Alison (Lake Bell), Sue (Michelle Borth), would-be musician Doug (Martin Starr) and his girlfriend Willow (Angela Sarafyan). When Eric finds out his dad (Don Johnson) is selling the house, he’s bummed out, but decides that the gang should go out with a bang — literally, in the form of a Labor Day weekend orgy.
Slowly, one by one, the friends come around to the idea, each for their own reasons — because of a recent break-up, an unresolved intra-group crush, general horniness, or the belief that lingering body issues could perhaps be set straight in a group setting. This decision comes after the summer nuptials of a pair of purposefully excluded, long-engaged friends, Glenn and Kate (Will Forte and Lucy Punch), who also have a baby together, and is eventually additionally complicated by Eric’s growing feelings for real estate agent Kelly (Leslie Bibb).
A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy, though, doesn’t morph into some weak-kneed romantic comedy wherein Eric experiences an epiphany and calls the whole act off. If it’s a goofy, ambling and loose-limbed beast throughout, the movie is also fairly honest (albeit in an exaggerated fashion) about the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty that it summons up in its characters. This makes the film — the directorial debut of former The Larry Sanders Show and King of the Hill scribes Huyck and Gregory — true-hearted and sincere, while also quite strong in the jokes department.
The cast, too, is a good match. There are faces that are more recognizable than others, certainly, but everyone seems to fit well together, and there is no sense of gamesmanship or grandstanding to any of the scenes — a too common problem in a lot of shock-oriented comedies, where whether because of star cameos or scene-chewing instincts many set pieces tilt over into the improbable, and spoil any sense of rootedness to the story. This Orgy remains true to itself — immature and embellished, but never wildly unrealistic.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy comes to DVD in a 98-minute unrated version, presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English and French language Dolby digital 5.1 audio tracks that more than adequately handle the title’s straightforward sound design. Optional English, French and English SDH subtitles are also available. Bonus features are anchored by a chatty and amusing feature-length audio commentary track from Gregory, Huyck and Sudeikis, in which the latter points out that “the Steven Soderbergh version of this same story starts at the morning-after breakfast.” Ten deleted or trimmed scenes run a total of just over 16 minutes, and finds Borth’s character advising Punch’s character to give her husband anal sex in order to make their wedding night special. There is also a scene with another character breaking news of the orgy to her Bible study group, a subplot completely removed from the theatrical version of the movie.
A behind-the-scenes featurette runs a tad over eight minutes, but features loads of on-set production footage from the movie’s Wilmington, North Carolina, shoot, and manages to work in nice and genuinely thoughtful interview clips with the filmmakers and a broad cross-section of the cast (including some bit players, like Lin Shaye and David Koechner). The phrase “gag reel” could mean something quite different for a title like this, but it does feature flubs and improvisations run amok after all; in butt-less chaps, Forte crashes one of the orgy scenes, Labine opines about “crocodile blowjobs,” and Sudeikis threatens nut flicks, only to have his bluff called. Previews for Drive, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Bucky Larson: Born To Be a Star and the grim-looking third installment of the Hostel franchise round things out. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B+ (Movie) B- (Disc)