Sex Tape has its moments of genuine hilarity, but for the most part it aims low and goes for easy laughs that it hopes will appeal to its target fortysomething audience. Its subject and the plight of its main characters might resonate and hit close to home for that particular demographic, but any fun found in exploring that territory is muted by serious pacing issues and a maudlin ending that never seems to come.
When they first met and dated in college, Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) simply did not have enough hours in the day for all the sex they loved to have with one another. Ten years of marriage and two kids later, however, and the loving couple finds themselves facing the fulfillment of a dire prophecy uttered by Annie’s father on the night Jay met both of Annie’s parents:
“Say good-bye to sex!”
It’s certainly not for lack of wanting to jump each other’s bones that the once-randy couple haven’t gotten to enjoy any sexy time of late. The routine of modern family life has simply asserted itself: kids, work, kids, kids, kids, go to sleep completely exhausted, wake up, rinse, repeat.
So what do they do to bring the spark back? Well, to their credit, Jay and Annie try lots of different things before the idea to video themselves in flagrante delicto pops into Annie’s head. Unfortunately for them, all of those other ideas result in some kind of inadvertent bodily harm that, among other things, kills the mood. Creating the video, however … well, that does the trick for both of them quite nicely, and all’s well that ends well.
That is, of course, until Jay fails to delete the recording from his iPad and it gets uploaded to the Cloud. Then its a mad scramble to retrieve the rather large number of iPads out and about that can access Jay’s Cloud account, given to, among others: Jay and Annie’s best friends, Robbie and Tess (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper); Annie’s mother (Nancy Lenehan); Annie’s prospective new boss, Hank (Rob Lowe); and the couple’s mailman. See why they’re desperate?
The script by Segel, Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Get Him to the Greek), and Kate Angelo (The Back-Up Plan) aims to get at the reality often facing today’s working mommies and daddies, that chances are someone, either husband or wife, or even more likely both of them are not getting enough sex. It’s also chock full of gags born of the travails of modern life made more complicated by technology that’s supposed to make life simpler: the mysteriousness of “the cloud” and how it works, kids knowing more about making and sharing videos than grown-ups do, and the utterly absurd number of similarly-named free online porn sites all get mined for comic value, among others. Again, all relatively easy targets, considering they’ve all been explored in other, more insightful and emotionally-resonant comedies in recent years.
There’s also plenty of nakedness, which Segel and Stoller just seem to find so funny in general that they feel the need to incorporate at least one scene featuring Segel naked in just about every one of their film collaborations. (Don’t worry, guys — Diaz gets naked, too.)
It’s all relatively chuckle-worthy, and the leads do what they do best — Diaz whines and Segel makes goofy faces — but the film’s biggest laughs arguably come from Rob Lowe, whose brief time on screen as repressed corporate CEO Hank is highlighted by music from hair-band legends Slayer and paintings featuring Lowe’s character participating in iconic scenes from Disney animated classics in the background. Lowe just about steals the show here; had he been given more screen time, the drag in the film’s final 15 minutes might not have felt so pronounced.
Suffice to say that if you’re a fan of any member of this cast, chances are you’re going to find something to like and find funny while watching the film. But make no mistake: everyone involved in this production has done this sort of thing before, and in better films and TV shows, to boot. In the end, there’s just not enough that’s profoundly original or laugh-out-loud funny here to justify a trip to the movie theaters to see it, especially considering that even at a scant 94 minutes the film feels by the end as though it could have been wrapped up 15 minutes earlier. It’s shallow, goofy fun, and you might just have more fun staying home with your partner and … well, making your own porn.
Just remember to delete it. Immediately.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe. Directed by Jake Kasdan.
Running Time: 94 minutes
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use.
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