Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz get ready to have some not-very-R-rated coitus in "Sex Tape." Credit: Claire Folger
'Sex Tape' Director: Jake Kasdan Stars: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel Rating: R 1 Globe (out of 5)
There’s a sadness to comedies like “Date Night” and the new “Sex Tape” — not just about how pathetically lazy they are, but in their subject matter as well. These are films about the ruins of aging, about lost youth that will never return, about withering sex drives and about maturity sadly brought upon people who thought they knew what they were getting into. They’re also largely unfunny farces that strand good actors in forced situations that could have better handled by more skilled filmmakers.
These films have goodwill, but they run out. The goodwill lasts roughly 10 minutes in “Sex Tape.” It opens with Annie (Cameron Diaz) relating how she and her husband, Jay (Jason Segel), once did almost nothing but bang away at each other. Cut to the present day and she’s a mommy blogger. Though some of the tech talk, about the cloud and high def iPad cameras, suggests this was shot in 2013, it still feels set years earlier, as Annie’s about to sell her blog for untold riches to a major family-oriented company. At least it seems more timely than the title. What’s a tape again?
If one must be a stickler, Annie and Jay actually make a sex video, using a free night to spice up some aborted shtupping by doing it in front of his new iPad (albeit with painfully acrobatic contortions to obscure nudity). It takes some overly-explained convolutions to get the video sent to a series of gifted iPads. (Apple is so ubiquitous in films they’re probably tired of the attention by now.) Our heroes try to find them before any of the owners watches it, much less copies it and posts it to a sex site.
In "Sex Tape," Rob Lowe (with Cameron Diaz) basically does a more intense verison of "Parks and Recreation"'s Chris Traeger. Credit: Claire Folger
Even for a thin farce, “Sex Tape” has little meat on it. The misadventures are minimal. A quite large chunk of the film is eaten up by a visit to Annie’s new boss (Rob Lowe). It’s a sequence that inelegantly piles on a handful of not very shocking shock tactics, including an angry dog that overstays its welcome by at least three attacks. It doesn’t help that director Jake Kasdan’s directing style is lumpy and flat, his cameras catching actors at not terribly inspired times.
Diaz and Segel give it a good go, but they simply don’t have much chemistry together. (Segel seems half-there, despite having a screenplay credit, along with his "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" cohort Nicholas Stoller.) Nor do they have much time to nip at the anxieties running under the material. It’s not particularly interested in any of that anyway. There are a few token lessons and realizations at the end, but they’re handled as jokes — as though it’s trying to mock sincerity in movies like “Sex Tape.” In the actual finale (following a Spielbergian series of false ones), it repeatedly flirts with finally getting at something deeper and weirder, only to eventually back off into safer territory. If it was smarter it’d realize that pain is a good motivator for inventive comedy, of which it has none. It can’t even find particularly funny sex positions.