“Sex Tape” is not a comedy. “Sex Tape” is occasionally in the same room as comedy, but then “Sex Tape” turns the treadmill up to the highest setting and flings comedy into the wall, rendering it limp and lifeless. As a big fan of previous work from those involved – co-writers Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel collaborated to great success on “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and 2011’s “The Muppets” and director Jake Kasdan made the hilarious musical biopic spoof “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” – it’s painful to see such an appallingly poor effort put forth on every front.
In her best Carrie Bradshaw impression, a Cameron Diaz voiceover introduces her big problem to us: since she and Jason Segel got married and had kids, their once prosperous and passionate sex life has withered. She’s not sure how to get back the spark, until one drunken, childfree night stokes the fires of inspiration and they decide to film themselves working their way through a book of naughty positions. It works! So well, in fact, that Segel doesn’t want to delete the evidence, opting to keep it for what he terms “personal reference”. This decision proves ill-advised because he suffers from the first-world-est, white-people-est problem ever, wherein his job inexplicably leaves him with far too many iPads – iPads that he gives away as gifts, but leaves synced to his personal devices so that he can provide his friends and family with the hippest playlists. Now, through the incomprehensible magic of simple file sharing, their conjugal exploits are available on screens throughout Los Angeles, and they have to run around and destroy all the evidence before anyone can see what lewd, embarrassing creatures they are.
You’ll notice that I’ve only used the actors’ names to this point; this movie is so decidedly unengaging that I legitimately cannot remember the names of their characters. The premise is simply an attempted modernization of every sitcom or hacky stand-up comedy take on matrimony, but the film is content in resting on its laurels rather than trying to feel the least bit fresh. Flat, predictable jokes in the screenplay are regurgitated by the cast in equally lackluster fashion. Rob Lowe is an infectiously chipper godsend in his limited screen time, but he can’t salvage the mess that envelops him. Even Jack Black, in a rare performance where he tones down the Jack Black-ness, is squandered. His scene is overly didactic, chasing away the comic irony of intimate relationship advice coming from a man who, minutes earlier, declared “Butthole Sandwich” as one of his largest competitors. The entire experience is cobbled together with editing so atrocious that I found myself wondering if they had to shoot Diaz and Segel separately because of scheduling conflicts.
The only level on which this film functions is as an Apple commercial. Arriving home with a new batch of iPads, Segel raves about the upgraded camera and high definition screen (“That means more pixels”, he condescends to wife and audience alike). When retrieving one of the devices that has been thrown from a second story window, he stops to muse aloud about the amazing construction. In one scene, the familiar fruity logo stares at us in triplicate as Segel plugs his iPad into his Macbook, which is plugged into his iMac. Conspicuously missing from all the “cloud” kerfuffle is any mention of Apple’s iCloud software, which they clearly didn’t want associated with the level of inconvenience and discomfort caused by the generic stand-in, “Bride of Frankensync”.
A few weeks ago, I criticized “Tammy” for the missed opportunities that poorly served its convictions. “Sex Tape” should be so lucky. It merely hints at conviction, never committing for fear of delaying the next gag. This is a completely hollow experience: a one-night stand of a film that, unlike a real one-night stand, is utterly devoid of passion or enjoyment.Continue Reading Issue #12
18 July 2014
1 hr. 34 min.
Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Jack Black