'Good Old Fashioned Orgy' proves satisfying

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Leslie Bibb and Jason Sudeikis play longtime friends planning a final hurrah in “A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy.” (Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Walking into “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,” it’s perfectly logical to have low expectations. After all, it’s a low-key sex comedy packed with supporting players from other films, and it’s being dumped into the toxic pool of Labor Day weekend, arguably the worst weekend of the year for movies. (After all, neither of this weekend’s two major releases — “Shark Night 3D” and “Apollo 18” — were screened for critics, and the latter film has been bouncing around the calendar for what feels like years.) Surprisingly, “Orgy” capitalizes on the lowered expectations, going for a small-scale, refreshingly restrained comedy.

A group of thirty-something high school buddies led by Eric (Jason Sudeikis) survives from Monday to Friday by looking forward to weekly retreats to Eric’s summer home, where they engage in all sorts of debauchery. When Eric’s father decides to sell the house, Eric tries to convince his realtor (Leslie Bibb) to delay the sale until Labor Day weekend while the group brainstorms its traditional end-of-summer blowout. As one might expect from the title, Eric suggests an orgy.

A good chunk of the film is spent with the characters slowly convincing themselves that a group sex session is the best way to go out in style. The film is at its best in these moments, just letting the characters talk about themselves and bounce off each other. “Orgy” is a true ensemble piece, packed with comedic actors who’ve always been just left of the spotlight, and it gives each of them a moment to shine.

Each character has a distinct personality and quirks, and while they’re revealed through awkward, self-indulgent exposition a few times too many, it’s still refreshing to see such attention paid to character detail in a genre that often pointedly lacks it.

It helps that the film is often hilarious. Jason Sudeikis is the closest thing “Orgy” has to a star, and he handles it well, bringing a likable, witty energy to his role. His character’s friendship with Tyler Labine’s McCrudden is a bottomless well of laughs the film isn’t afraid to keep coming back to, especially in its climactic sequence, and Labine’s filthy, outrageous style goes well with Sudeikis’ laid-back sarcasm. Also good are Martin Starr’s indecisive musician, Lake Bell’s irritating psychiatrist, and Lindsay Sloane’s perpetually insecure Laura. Will Forte and Lucy Punch, the married couple that’s somewhat outgrown their group of friends, are under-used to a fault but their brief moments on screen are hilarious.

 Perhaps the most surprising thing about “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” is its ending. It would have been easy for the film to cop out and let its characters decide they value their friendship too much to go through the film’s titular event. Thankfully, this is not the case, and the orgy scene alternates between hilarious and emotional, playing both sides of the court equally well. Even better is its wrap-up, which is (mostly) free of cliches one might expect from this type of movie.

 “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t, and it’s all the better for it. It’s not a film that tries too hard to be funny, letting the laughs come naturally from its very gifted cast and it doesn’t go for any emotional moments it hasn’t earned. It’s certainly not the funniest movie in theaters right now, but for audiences looking for a decent way to blow a few hours, you could certainly do worse.

Printed on Friday, September 2, 2011 as: 'Orgy' provides satisfying laughs.