The upside of A Good Old Fashioned Orgy's long delay on its way to theaters is that many of its stars-- including Lucy Punch, Leslie Bibb and Nick Kroll-- are far more famous now than they were when the movie was filmed in 2008. But delayed movies, comedies especially, have a way of earning that kind of delay, and though there's plenty of talent and a handful of good jokes, it's largely a promising idea in search of writer-directors who know where to take it. Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory, making their screenwriting and directing debuts, consistently bungle everything from the timing of jokes to plot threads that seem insultingly obvious, making a film that's just good enough to set the audience up for laughs that just aren't there.
That's not to say the movie isn't agreeable enough, and it's not nearly as terrible as the long delay and the desperately raunchy premise would suggest. But Sudeikis has been in similar territory once already this summer, in Horrible Bosses, and it's far weaker stuff here. Sudeikis plays Eric, a slightly spoiled thirty-something who's spent years throwing ragers at a Hamptons house owned by his dad (Don Johnson, for some reason), and decides it's time for one last giant party before dad sells the place after Labor Day Weekend. Past party themes have usually been along the lines of the "White Trash Bash" that opens the movie, but Eric somehow makes the leap in logic that it's high time he and his best pals since high school have an orgy.
Very, very creaky screenwriting gambits get all the characters to the point of agreeing to the orgy, but in a movie that could have just gone right after the raunch, it's at least nice to have them there. But even though many of the characters-- therapist and bad-relationship-prone Alison (Lake Bell), hung-up-on-Eric Sue (Michelle Borth), all-over horndog Mike (Tyler Labine)-- have good enough reasons to join the orgy, the characters tend to range from irritating to insufferable. Whether overacting, as Lindsay Sloane does playing the innocent and awkward Laura, or coasting by on charm, as Sudeikis does pretty much effortlessly, the actors either can't or won't elevate the material, handed iffy jokes and a shaky screenplay and simply shrugging their shoulders and running with it. It's not just that the jokes don't land as well as they should and comedy bits never go anywhere, but these people never even feel like friends, much less the kind of lifelong pals who would throw an orgy together and get through intact.
As the movie counts down the weeks until the big day, various pieces fall into place to make the orgy possible, but Eric is also struggling to maintain what looks like a real new romance with his real estate agent Kelly (Bibb), who understandably shouldn't know about the forthcoming group sex party. There's also the newly married couple Glenn (Will Forte) and Kate (Lucy Punch) to gum up the works, the two of them demanding to be included despite their new bond; Forte and Punch, maybe because they appear in such small doses, pull off the balancing act of playing characters who are both irritating and funny. There's also a trip to a local underground sex club where a bearded David Koechner shows Eric how it's done, and though the scene milks laughs out of how uncomfortable a sex club would probably be, it also goes for easy shots at, gasp, old and unattractive people daring to have sex.
When it finally comes time for the orgy to happen, the movie admirably sticks to its guns in a way a more mainstream comedy probably couldn't have. Aside from one lame moment of gay panic the characters are both awkward and refreshingly open to the adventure, and though the writing isn't nearly strong enough to take advantage of the situation, each of the characters-- annoying as they are-- do eventually come into their own by the end. Aside from a handful of raunchy jokes and a lot of nudity, though, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy plays it too safe, when it had the cast and the premise to do a lot more.