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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Screen /  Out with the old
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Thursday, September 8,2011

Out with the old

By Michael Phillips

There’s funny and then there’s funny, and A Good Old- Fashioned Orgy is neither. I suspect Contagion will be funnier.

Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck wrote and directed, and the results could in fact be retitled Contagion if only for the ruthless effectiveness of its anti-mirth toxins.

Prior to making A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy, Gregory and Huyck contributed to Spy magazine, which was often very funny, and for TV they’ve written for Letterman, The Larry Sanders Show, Frasier and King of the Hill. All good and funny, at their best. A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy isn’t just not funny, it’s totally just not funny.

Well, I like two things about it. One is Lake Bell, whose supporting turn as the tightly wound geek in No Strings Attached periodically saved that comedy. The other is a sight gag I’m embarrassed to have laughed at, that of Will Forte and Lucy Punch showing up at the climactic “Indian theme” orgy dressed as Native Americans instead of East Indians, which really isn’t funny but in A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy it’s, like, beyond hilarious. The entire film is beyond hilarious. Also, it stars Jason Sudeikis, who doesn’t seem ready to star in any movie yet.

Sudeikis plays Eric, the ringleader. One by one, everyone gets on board with the plan for a final Labor Day weekend at Eric’s dad’s place on Long Island. Tyler Labine — who may remind you sliiiiiiiightly of Jack Black if Jack Black weren’t, at his best, funny — plays Eric’s best friend. Everybody else plays everybody else, and North Carolina plays Long Island, and Long Island didn’t miss a thing.

Gregory and Huyck want sincerity and pathos along with the jokes about sex toys. But they’ve forgotten to make anyone actually funny or likable (beyond Ms. Bell). The characters are insufferable bores, and the orgy seems to go on forever. Other than that, I was grateful the film offered windows of opportunity for Proustian reverie on the topics of nostalgia, loss and the last comedy you saw that might’ve provoked quite such stunned quietude in an audience.

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