As far as titles go, "Sex Tape" is a titillating one. But despite its naughty potential, the new R-rated comedy — starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz as a couple whose plan to spice up their marriage goes badly awry — has movie critics feeling frigid.
Reviews are knocking the Jake Kasdan-directed film for its uneven tone and preposterous plot.
The New York Times' A.O. Scott says the movie is "as wholesome as a spoonful of nonfat Greek yogurt." He adds, "The main reason that 'Sex Tape,' while often quite funny, fails to qualify as a comedy is the absence of any real conflict or complication.… The humor has no bite, no friction, none of the transgressive thrill" that Diaz, Kasdan and Segel brought to their previous collaboration, 2011's "Bad Teacher."
Salon's Andrew O'Hehir calls "Sex Tape" an "awkward and distinctly unsexy farcical misfire" that "sometimes resembles an R-rated Apple infomercial," with its iPad-heavy plot. As for the two leads, O'Hehir says, "they're in great shape and seem game for anything; they generate plenty of good cheer but not much sexual chemistry."
Variety's Justin Chang witheringly asks, "Who should be more embarrassed: the husband and wife who accidentally release a homemade porn video in 'Sex Tape,' or the studio that's willfully distributing 'Sex Tape'?" (The latter would be Sony.) He continues, "'Sex Tape' is an unaccountable drag — strained, toothless and far too tame to achieve the sort of outrageous, raunchy-titillating effect it's aiming for. This is, in effect, an R-rated movie with a coy PG-13 sensibility."
Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt finds "Sex Tape" "clumsy and wacky and intermittently amusing." The problem, she writes, is that Kasdan "doesn't quite seem to know what tone he's going for, and the last half of the movie veers wildly between crude hard-R comedy and warm-hearted teachable moments."
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy coins a new word to describe the movie: "sexcruciating." The script by Kate Angelo, Segel and Nicholas Stoller is "thoroughly preposterous and structurally patchy," McCarthy says, and he agrees with Greenblatt that Kasdan "never finds the right tone or, um, rhythm for an intimate encounter you increasingly wish could just be a quickie."
Among the film's sparse bright spots, according to multiple critics, is the inclusion of Rob Lowe as a seemingly conservative family man and CEO with a wild side. Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com writes, "The casting of Lowe, who notoriously suffered his own sex-tape scandal in the late 1980s, at first seems like an in-joke that's too easy. But the more his character reveals himself — and a complexity that's sadly lacking in everyone else — the more you realize how cleverly it taps into Lowe's longtime chops as a standout supporting player."
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