Sex Tape (2014) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe, Harrison Holzer, Nat Faxon, Jack Black, Kumail Nanjani
Director: Jake Kasdan
Screenplay: Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
Review published July 18, 2014
There are some recorded movies that should never have gotten out to the general public, filmed by participants who had wanted to craft something that offered some amorous titillation, laughs and good times, only for it to be released to the world at large, upon which it becomes a source of their eternal embarrassment.
With the above statement, I'm not talking about sex tapes like those featured within this film, but the actual theatrical release known as Sex Tape itself. It's a film that has shockingly sparse genuine laughs, exceedingly forced envelope-pushing raunch, and perhaps the worst performances by a cast of normally talented actors in each respective career.
The premise is that a longtime married couple decides to spark up their dormant love lives by using their iPad to record their lovemaking session -- just enough of a new edge to make their experience feel new and fresh again. The recording, which would go on to last a marathon three hours in length, was never meant to be seen, even by them, but hubby Jay (Segel, The Muppets) neglects to heed the advice of wife Annie (Diaz, The Other Woman) to delete the video. Unfortunately, the video is put into Jay's "cloud" account, and immediately uploaded to the iPad of everyone to whom he has given a similar device -- family, friends, business associates, the mailman -- in order to share and promote his music. With Annie about to become a big-time commercial blogger for a family-friendly toy corporation and Jay out to protect his career and family's reputation, they're going to have to visit everyone they know with one of their gift iPads and delete the video before they see it, or worse, it gets leaked out forever for all of the world to enjoy.
Sex Tape is blandly directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard, Orange County), who has thus far languished in making comedies so inept that they seem to out of their way to miss their mark, including Bad Teacher, which also featured the comedic performances of Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. It's a film that's so middle-of-the-road in execution, it feels like a PG-13 film that the producers decided needed more kick, so they injected as many scenes of sex, drugs, and potty-mouthed dialogue after the fact in the hope that they can get at least some laughs from people entertained by any display of vulgarity.
Kasdan's film, written by a trio of screenwriters which includes star Segel, along with Nicholas Stoller (Muppets Most Wanted) and Kate Angelo (The Back-Up Plan), lacks any real imagination, merely content to set the crassness to 'high' and hope that F-bombs and porn pedigree will make such trite material seem like it has an edge. Judd Apatow this is not, as his films are funny because the well-rounded characters are established early and their foibles are relatable; the thinly defined characters in Sex Tape are forced to do and say the dumbest, tackiest things possible solely for the purpose of trying to get a laugh, with jokes that fall so flat on their face, they elicit more winces than guffaws.
Diaz and a svelte Segel deliver no sparks at all together, either romantically or comedically, and watching them perpetually perform in a variety of coital positions that include handstands and somersaults only makes an already straining comedy seem out-and-out desperate to squeeze out any laugh it can. Not even the normally sure-footed supporting players Rob Corddry (Rapture-Palooza) and Ellie Kemper (They Came Together), who play the couple's best friends, can find a funny angle to this abysmal material. And real-life sex-tape alum Rob Lowe (Killing Kennedy) has the unfortunate distinction of appearing in what may likely be the worst prolonged scene in any mainstream comedy this year, as a hard-drinking metalhead with a squeaky clean public image who cajoles Annie into doing lines of cocaine with him while Jay beats the home's protective German Shepherd nearly to death.
One interesting tidbit about the movie is that, despite being a film made by SONY, the sheer amount of product placement for Apple products is astonishing. One you think that you'd see lots of SONY tablets and laptops, as they had in 22 Jump Street, but not a single one in sight. Perhaps the corporation knew how terrible this film would be and decided to give Apple a "guilt by association" counter-advertisement, as anytime someone sees an iPad, they may think of this movie, then recoil in disgust. Well played, SONY.
Going nowhere except through predictable patterns throughout, Sex Tape feels like a recently caught fish laying on a sun-baked pier, unaware of its own calamity, merely sucking in air in a desperate attempt to continue to survive but not knowing how, until it slowly but surely dies. Seeing so much talent strain mightily to contrive ways for a sex romp to pay off makes me realize why people no longer desire a story with their porn clips anymore. If there's a worse theatrically released movie in 2014, I may give up reviewing films for a while.
©2014 Vince Leo