2014, R, 97 mins.
2014, R, 97 mins.
Cameron Diaz as Annie / Jason Segel as Jay / Rob Lowe as Hank / Ellie Kemper as Tess / Rob Corddry as Robby / Jolene Blalock as Catalina / Randall Park as Edward
Directed by Jake Kasdan / Written by Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, and Nicholas Stoller
You know, for a film that’s supposed to be a sex comedy – and the fact that it also has the word “sex” in its title – there's very little in the way of hearty laughs or, hell, even eroticism in SEX TAPE, a new comedy can’t ever decided what kind of tone its aiming for.
certainly a promise of a titillating and edgy premise here – a
fortysomething married couple with kids decide to make a sex tape to
rekindle their lost hedonistic drives, only to then find out that it
accidentally went viral – but director Jake Kasdan fails to deliver on
this high stakes – but, let’s face, someone dated – concept.
It’s the kind of hard-R rated screwball farce of all out
debauchery that the Farrelly Brothers would have had a field day with…back in
the day. SEX TAPE rarely
feels as salaciously cutting edge as it thinks it is for the genre.
Diaz and Jason Segal return as an on-screen pair (they were last seen in
Kasdan’s own BAD TEACHER, and the
pair had a sort of oddball chemistry together playing educators with a
longing for love). Even
though the duo are an effective and winning duo in SEX TAPE and give it
their all with a free wheeling abandon, Diaz and Segal never really seem
to generate as much audience interest in their characters this go around.
As the film begins we see Diaz’s Annie recount how she met and
fell in love with Jay (Segal), long before marriage and long before they
had children (these flashback sequences, to their credit, use some sort of
de-aging visual effects that seem a bit more natural looking than what
other films have attempted). In
the infancy of their relationship, both Annie and Jay were dynamos in the
sack together. They couldn’t get enough.
as the film shows the couple in the present day, they are indeed still
happy and fairly well adjusted spouses as well as parents…but the sex,
alas, is AWOL. Finding time
– and sometimes the energy – to get it on has become an arduous task
for them. After
multiple failed attempts to get their sexual appetites back, Annie has an
epiphany to – yup – make a sex tape with her hubby’s new iPad,
replete with a stunning new retinal display (in one of the film’s many
obtrusive and beyond obvious shout-outs to Apple products).
Swearing to try out every position in the book THE JOY OF SEX,
Annie and Jay commit to their tape with the zeal of kids in a candy store.
Even though they've just had the proverbial night of their
respective lives, Annie suggests to Jay to permanently delete the
alas, has other plans…actually…scratch that…let’s just say that he
makes a catastrophic blunder of accidentally uploading the tape to all of
the iPads that he previously owned, but has now given away as gifts to
friends, family, and, yup, even the creepy looking mailman.
Predictably, this sends Jay and his wife into a fanatical frenzy,
especially when they begin to receive anonymous texts from an apparent
stranger that has seen their tape and perhaps has the power to spread it
all over the Internet. This
causes Annie in particular to panic, as her blog is about to be purchased
by a family-values-friendly corporation, which will, no doubt, be none too
appreciative of her private sextivities appearing publicly online.
Jay and Annie then go into crisis lockdown and engage in one wacky
misadventure after another to ensure that the “best night of their
lives” doesn’t permanently ruin their lives forever.
the ample talent on board here both in front of and behind the camera, SEX
TAPE feels, dare I say it, neutered and flaccid in the laughs department.
Kasdan has made some amusing comedies before (see the underrated
ORANGE COUNTY) and co-writers Nicolas Stoller and Segal previously teamed
up to make one of the finest romcoms in many a moon in FORGETTING
SARAH MARSHALL. That’s
not to say that SEX TAPE is completely bereft of guffaws, but the
comic timing and momentum seems hideously off at times (that, and at barely over 90
minutes, the film feels excruciatingly longer than that).
Also, considering the subject matter – and that the lead stars frequently
appear in varying states of undress - SEX TAPE seems to lack
raw nerve. It’s the kind of
sex comedy that lusts to be in-your-face with a high smuttiness factor,
but there are very few genuine moments of endearing soft-core ribaldry to
be had. The film is just
not…naughty enough. It
comes off as safe and pedestrian.
the film fails at tawdriness you’d hope that it would make up for it
with some lively merriment. Segal
and Diaz are very game and shrewd minded comedians, to be sure, but they
play characters that are such unmitigated morons that I constantly felt
that they were intellectually above the material given to them.
It can be said that the stars here at least go for broke in the
film with a capricious energy that many other performers would shy away
from, but the characters they play – on paper – are too shallow
minded, too lacking in common sense, and too colorless to deserve our
rooting interest. As the film
careens from one zany set piece to the next Annie and Jay become less
compelling as credible personas and more like caricatures and puppets at
the mercy of the film’s outlandishly contrived plotting.
Segal himself – who appears to have shed a considerable amount of
weight for the film – looks sort of gaunt and unhealthy.
Remember the full frontal scenes he did in FORGETTING SARAH
MARSHALL where he displayed his manhood and love handles without a care in
the world as to vanity? The
comedic essence of that loveably pudgy schmuck – that Segal has played
to sublime perfection - is vacant in SEX TAPE.
TAPE – despite its ungainly tonal focus with its would-be racy material
– has a saving grace ace up its sleeve in the casting of Rob Lowe as
Hank, a C.E.O. of a corporation that wishes to buy the rights to Annie’s
blog. Outwardly, this
dude has a Walt Disney-esque amiability and appears to be a kind,
considerate, and an ethically strong family man.
Alas, during one long middle sequence of the film – as Jay secretly searches through Hank’s house for an iPad with their
recording on it while Annie distracts him – the mogul reveals his true
colors as a Heavy Metal loving and cocaine addicted party animal that’s
desperate to get crazy with friends when his family is out of town.
The casting of Lowe here – whom had his own notorious sex tape
scandal a few decades ago – is one of the great in-joke coups of the
film. Lowe commits himself to
his wink-wink role with a real gusto.
He’s arguably the epicenter of SEX TAPE’s most uproarious
Unfortunately, there’s not enough of Lowe’s assured comedic chops to save this film from capsizing on itself. SEX TAPE just doesn’t seem to understand its material to fully harness it the way it wants to. That, and there already was a lewd and crude comedy earlier this year (NEIGHBORS) that did an infinitely better job of showing how adult responsibilities like marriage and parenthood can unforgivably zap couples’ sex drives. That film felt like a documentary compared to SEX DRIVE, which is just too cartoonish and clumsily handled for its own good as it tries to segue between sensationalistic vulgarity and heart tugging merriment. This is a comedy with little sizzle and even less chuckles.