July 17, 2014

Sex Tape

starstar

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Sex Tape

COMEDY:

United States, 2014

U.S. Release Date:

2014-07-18

Running Length:

1:30

MPAA Classification:

R (Sexual Content, Nudity, Profanity, Drug Use)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1

Cast:

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper

Director:

Jake Kasdan

Screenplay:

Kate Angelo and Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller

Cinematography:

Tim Suhrstedt

Music:

Michael Andrews

U.S. Distributor:

Columbia Pictures

Subtitles:

none


Two fundamental problems afflict Sex Tape (aside from the fact that it's not consistently funny): a shocking ignorance about the state of modern technology and a mistaken belief that the subject matter is inherently edgy. The screenplay is disappointing on a number of levels. The humor is sophomoric, relying on slapstick while ignoring potentially ribald possibilities that could arise from the situation. And the film's attempts to build characters and relationships are undercooked. Yes, there are some laughs, but they're not as big or as frequent as one might expect from a would-be "major" comedy.

The premise in and of itself is outdated. The idea of a home-made sex tape being considered "naughty" is at least a decade old. Nowadays, a lot of young couples are making these for their personal (and sometimes non-personal) use - a fact acknowledged during Sex Tape's bizarre climactic sequence - so the movie's attitude toward this is out-of-step with contemporary reality. The contrivance necessary to allow the tape to be distributed is insulting to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of how technology works. It feels artificial. The filmmakers, apparently aware of this, attempt to shoehorn in an explanation but it only calls attention to how absurd the situation is. The events of Sex Tape not only make leading man Jay (Jason Segel) come across as an unsympathetic moron but they insult the intelligence of even moderately technologically savvy viewers.

Sex Tape begins with a situation of increasing familiarity in movies (as they attempt to reflect reality): a married couple bemoaning their lack of a sex life. Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay are happy in just about every way that counts except between the sheets. Kids and career demands have killed their opportunities for intimacy. So, to spice things up, they pack up the offspring for a night at grandma's and decide to try out every position in the once-popular sex manual, The Joy of Sex. To add fuel to the fire, Annie suggests they make a sex tape, with the condition that it be erased the next day. Jay, unwilling to delete the concrete record of "one of the best nights of [his] life," accidentally uploads it to a fleet of iPads he has given out to friends, family, and the mailman. Supposed hilarity ensues as the couple attempts to retrieve the iPads and prevent the video from being uploaded to the porn site YouPorn.

Some of the early material in Sex Tape, although perhaps too reminiscent of the beginning of the much funnier Neighbors, works. The details about Annie and Jay's lack of sexual intimacy rings true and there's something playful about the way in which they attempt to recapture it. The movie's narrative enters a sharp downward spiral when it comes time to start rounding up the iPads. This includes a cartoonish and excruciatingly protracted scene with Annie and Jay visiting a mansion owned by Annie's boss, Hank (played by a nebbish Rob Lowe). While Annie does cocaine and flirts with Hank, Jay prowls the house looking for the iPad and being chased by a dog. The film's final fifteen minutes are, if anything, even worse, despite an on-target performance by a familiar (but uncredited) actor.

Sex Tape isn't without its share of funny moments, but they are too few and far between to justify even the slim 90-minute running length. Those on the lookout for a little skin, which one might logically expect from a movie with this title, may also be disappointed. The nudity is, for the most part, of the peek-a-boo variety. There are some rear shots (of both Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) but nothing more explicit. It's borderline-PG-13 and the lack of candor with respect to the sex scenes is one of the reasons why Sex Tape feels tepid. A movie of this sort should be racy and edgy; it should stoke the libido and tickle the funny bone. This one does neither and, as a result, feels like a cheat.

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