If I didn’t chuckle once or twice, I’d be filing a complaint against Sony with the Better Business Bureau for marketing Sex Tape as a comedy. Although not quite as intellectually offensive as Cameron Diaz’s last endeavor The Other Woman, a comedy with three female leads that flunked the Bechdel Test, Sex Tape mostly falls flat by playing it safe. Do yourself a favor by saving money, staying home and watching a sitcom; there’s no reason you need to pay for this train wreck.
Despite the presence of otherwise appealing and funny talent, the script by Kate Angelo, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller reverts to the same comic tropes you may fondly recall from The Hangover, right down to the (spoiler alert) big reveal of the video before the closing credits. Flatly directed by Jake Kasdan, I suspect this is a situation where it all looked good on paper and fell apart after endless studio notes and test screenings. If you try to make a product everyone will love, you’ll make something everyone will hate.
Kasdan’s previous output is mostly admirable; in fact, Sex Tape draws upon shades of his Orange County and his previous Diaz collaboration Bad Teacher. The latter was a slight misfire with a couple of laughs, while his follow-up completely misses the target. While not the first comedy to fall flat this summer, here’s a film that contains very little sympathetic behavior.
Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) are a L.A.-based couple, apparently in the upper middle class. He’s a radio DJ, she’s a mommy blogger — this is a sitcom, remember, not the real world. Jay apparently gets two new iPads every time Apple releases one. (Strangely, it’s a Sony movie that’s not pimping the latest Vaio computer and Sony smart phone.) In a long expository voice-over, Annie explains she fell in love with Jay because they enjoyed having sex with each other in college.
Annie’s blog is about to be acquired by toy company Piper Brothers and her point of contact is marketing VP Hank (Rob Lowe) who just seems a little off. To celebrate, Annie and Jay send their kids to stay with grandma and decide to get kinky, but in order to do so, they first have to get drunk. Again, not as funny as you might think.
They decide to make a sex tape which, of course, accidentally gets uploaded to the cloud. Instead of using the remote wipe feature Apple includes on all devices via iCloud, they decide to chase down everyone whom Jay has given an iPad to as a disposable thank you gift. This includes their pals Robby (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper), who ask why they had videotaped themselves having sex for longer than the length of Richard Linklater’s new masterpiece Boyhood (currently in theaters, and with more genuine laughs than this film).
This sets off a mad race to retrieve an iPad from Annie’s new boss Hank, in a scene with a few minor chuckles. By the time we got to this point in the film I had given up. It’s like going on a bad date; you try to find any common ground to make the experience a little more enjoyable, even though you know you’ll never want to talk again. Much of this scene is in the trailers, which you’ve probably seen countless times at the movies or on TV. The movie, for the worse, departs from those trailers. Diaz does not ponder the implications of the mail man seeing her vagina, as she did in the theatrical trailer.
The cumulative result is painfully boring experience, one with intellectually dull, thin character motivations, lame dialogue and an even lamer plot. I suppose it all comes down to script. Here we have a faulty product that contains elements that, in theory, should work, instead of a real movie that offers a refreshing take on marriage and sex. Perhaps that kind of film is best left to emotional honesty of the Duplass brothers, who would have made a far better movie out of this material (likely because the first thing they would have done is throw away the script).
Sex Tape isn’t just a misfire, it forgoes basic logic for us to buy into the high-concept scenario. How can Jay be so smart to set up an elaborate synching system across his devices but not know that a remote wipe feature exists? How can he work in the music industry and not know how the Digital Millennium Right Act works and how to file a takedown notice when his intellectual property is misappropriated in the film’s third act?
Plot holes and stupidity aside, the characters are just so dull there’s little left to care about. By the time someone — an alum of Kasdan’s earlier work — pops up in a cameo to express my thoughts on why Jay and Annie should have never gotten married in the first place, it’s far too late.
Sex Tape is now in wide release.