- Jake Kasdan
- Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Jack Black
- 95 min.
- Release Date
Sex Tape is an exhausting farce that would have been relevant twenty years ago but now feels stale. It borders on insulting in today’s market, where raunchy comedies are rarely edgy anymore. Director Jake Kasdan reteams with his Bad Teacher stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel for a comedy of forced ribaldry and absurd antics more attuned to a sitcom. A shame, as Kasdan was once a filmmaker of promise with surprisingly composed titles like Zero Effect and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. But since Kasdan has forgone feature films of late to direct and produce episodes of New Girl and Ben and Kate, his dull television-ness has rubbed off, leaving us with a disappointing, unfunny, pointedly un-titillating 90-minutes of ridiculous material covered better in The Amateurs and even Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Diaz and Segel play a happily married couple with two kids and, in the prologue, Diaz’s character Annie writes in her popular mothering blog about where the couple’s former sexual spark has gone. We’re shown flashbacks of their adventurous early days in bed, and finally. Annie asks “How the hell do you get it back?” Annie soon proposes to her husband, Segel’s Jay, that they should film themselves performing every position in Alex Comfort’s 1972 book The Joy of Sex. Their three-hour event is shot on an iPad, and snippets with curious angles leave us to wonder who else was in the room filming them. At any rate, the next day Jay, a music aficionado, realizes their video has uploaded to all of Jay’s iPads, many of which he’s given to friends to share his elaborate playlists. Nevermind why Jay has so many iPads; the explanation doesn’t make sense. And so, joined by their close friends Robbie and Tess (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper), Annie and Jay set out to recover the iPads from friends and family, hopefully before anyone watches their explicit video.
The premise is an insulting contrivance, conceived by Kate Angelo, and later expanded by Forgetting Sarah Marshall co-scripters Segel and Nicholas Stoller. The setup exists only to perpetuate itself, which wouldn’t be so bad except the ensuing exploits aren’t all that funny. The characters’ primary goal is to recover an iPad from Hank (Rob Lowe, looking oddly plastic), the outwardly goodie-two-shoes CEO of a toy company who wants to purchase Annie’s blog. Once they find an excuse to show up on Hank’s doorstep, Annie distracts Hank by flirting with him and sharing some cocaine, while Jay snoops around the house and narrowly avoids being eaten by Hank’s aggressive German Shepherd. Around Hank’s mansion are original paintings he had commissioned that insert him into classic scenes from Disney cartoons; Jay also finds plenty of sex toys in Hank’s bedside table. We never quite figure out what’s going on with Hank, and the movie never uses Lowe’s own real-life misadventures with sex tapes to its advantage.
Slapstick humor involving intense violence (primarily dog-related) and an over-the-top quality to all things dominate the movie’s bland attempts to generate laughs. And the frank discussions of sex aren’t that insightful, though they make us wonder why a couple that seems otherwise sexually liberated—at least enough to acknowledge their own marital troubles and experiment—are unable to laugh about their situation. Moreover, Sex Tape feels like it’s continuously building toward the audience seeing Annie and Jay’s scandalous tape, and when we finally get a peek, it’s more awkward and silly than risqué. Through it all, Segel and Diaz have never overacted so much, and these are animated performers anyway. Their bug-eyed and frantic reactions to the situation grow tiresome. And at any moment, we expect a laugh-track to further emphasize where we should laugh.
There’s also enough product placement throughout the movie to incite groans. At one point, Jay examines an unscathed iPad that’s been thrown out a window. “These things are amazingly constructed,” he observes, and earns Sony’s production a hearty contribution. Add to this the script’s wearisome in-joke about Jay not realizing that someone can erase content, such as a video, from several linked devices on The Cloud, and Sex Tape proves completely pointless. As for the talent, Diaz has never been a welcome or versatile presence in comedies (see Very Bad Things or more recently Gambit), save for Being John Malkovich. But Segel usually stars in films that are an antidote to this kind of drivel—intelligent, heartfelt comedies like I Love You, Man and The Five-Year Engagement. Alas, it’s painful to watch so many talented people in such a bad movie, but, well, here it is.