Review: ‘Sex Tape’ lacks appeal, even with Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz
Betsy Sharkey reviews ‘Sex Tape’ starring Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Rob Corddry and Rob Lowe. Video by Jason H. Neubert.
Let’s start with the bare facts. A big-screen shot of a naked handstand is an overshare any way you look at it of parts and places better left unexposed — even from the back, even in a raunchy sex comedy titled “Sex Tape,” even when executed by Jason Segel, like costar Cameron Diaz, a very appealing actor dressed or not.
Next, a word about “F-bombs.” A fairly liberal use in R-rated fare is expected, but “Sex Tape” must be going for a Guinness world record.
Onto the iPad issue. “Sex Tape” seems intent on exposing as many of Apple’s i’s as those aforementioned nether regions. There is even an iPad plot point. So if Apple didn’t cover the cost of Kate Angelo, Nicholas Stoller and Segel’s script, it should write the check now.
Finally, and this is the killer given all of the skin its stars show, rarely has sex been less sexy.
Some of the unsexy in “Sex Tape” is intentional. Think of it as the “artistic” distinction between homemade porn and actual porn that a porn entrepreneur, played persuasively by an uncredited Jack Black, might make.
But consider “Sex Tape’s” opening sequence, which captures Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) in college in the first throes. The sex is nonstop and all over the place. Funny? Occasionally. But super sexy? Nope.
Ten years later Annie and Jay are married with two kids, still in love but no longer in lust, as Annie writes in her mommy blog, which also serves as narration for some of what we see.
Now two things need to be established so that the sex tape in the cloud can present a problem big enough to drive all the slapstick comedy that follows.
One is Jay’s specialty. A music guy of some sort, he makes great mix tapes, which he shares with friends via his iPad. Jay may use technology, but he does not understand it. This and a send button will make that plain.
Meanwhile, Annie’s blog has attracted the interest of a giant toy company. Run by a prissy Hank Rosenbaum, played by a simpering, scene-stealing Rob Lowe, Piper Brothers is interested in acquiring the blog and Annie’s funny take on parenthood. Cleaned up of course.
Jay is finishing up a new mix tape. Annie’s about to nail the new job. Both want to reclaim their earlier, ecstatic, sexual state before it’s too late. Enter the sex tape.
With the kids safely at Grandma’s, they try. And they try. After a few false starts — in roller skates, on the kitchen floor — an impromptu video session with an old copy of “The Joy of Sex” for inspiration seems to do the trick. Guess which product they choose to tape their three hours of sex?
This is the point when the film, directed with a somewhat lively touch by Jake Kasdan, starts to have some interesting things to say about modern marriage, sexuality, technology and how to keep the flame burning. But like Jay, Kasdan has difficulty keeping it up. (He also directed Diaz and Segel in the barely passable “Bad Teacher.”)
Since it’s a comedy, much could be forgiven if the film was consistent in generating laughs, but the comedy is as erratic as the couple’s sex life.
There are certainly classic moments. Some involve best friends Robby (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper). They were on Jay’s “send” list, but their son Howard (a wry Harrison Holzer) is the one who discovers the video and is now trying to blackmail Jay.
Most of the film’s funniest stuff involves a house call the couple make to retrieve one of the offending iPads — a gift from Annie to Piper Brothers’ Hank.
The making of said tape definitely showcases the stars’ facility with physical comedy. There’s Segel with his handstand, Diaz doing a forward flip, both of them naked and entangled in increasingly awkward ways as they try to measure up to “The Joy of Sex” instructions.
But the trip to Hank’s house allows Diaz, in particular, to go comedy crazy.
Annie’s main job is to keep Hank distracted while Jay searches for the offending iPad, and between Diaz’s fearless flailing and Lowe’s flawless manipulation of his manipulative character, the best moments in the movie happen under that roof. A shout-out to production designer Jefferson Sage for making Hank’s home so weirdly surreal as to be laughable.
Diaz and Segel are very good at relationship comedy; they’ve proved that in countless films. Both of the actors have a kind of silly sweetness underpinning their antics, which in “Sex Tape” helps soften the R-rated blows.
The stars do expose their sensitive side along with a lot of skin. Still, the most thoughtful relationship advice comes from the porn mogul. Now that is funny.
MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: In general release
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