There are certain sub-genres of film that play within a limited realm of expectations. Bawdy, crude romantic comedies are usually expected to do well financially while never nearing the Oscar buzz stratosphere, and that is okay. Films like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Old School, The Wedding Crashers and even the American Pie franchise are all cheap, dirty, funny entertainment—the fast food of the film world.
Sex Tape, on the other hand, is not only a disappointment, but is also off-putting in every possible way, unworthy to join the ranks of the aforementioned naughty rom-coms. If American Wedding is a greasy burger and fries, Sex Tape is a 99 cent frozen pizza that leaves you wishing you had just gone to bed and not wasted your money on the indigestion.
The plot is not original but still intriguing—a married couple (Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) decides to spice things up in the bedroom and make their own amateur sex tape. Unfortunately, their dirty little secret is all too soon shared with several other people through an iPad syncing program, and the couple charge off into the night to try and confiscate all the iPads and erase the embarrassing video before it is shared with the world. The “adventure” that ensues includes enlisting the help of their best friends (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper), showing up at the home of a prospective employer (Rob Lowe) with a far-fetched story, dragging their kids out into the night for a bout of breaking and entering, plus drug use, animal cruelty and more.
The biggest problem with Sex Tape is that it is just not funny enough. There are a few moments of clever dialogue or slapstick comedy, but the rest is awkward, forced and tiresome. There is little chemistry between the protagonists, and the many gaps are filled with chilly make-out sessions and inane profanity. Their dilemma is a bad one, for sure, but at the same time it feels a bit of a non-issue. There are so many big problems a married couple could go through, that the extent to which this couple goes to fix their mistake makes them feel brutally shallow and irresponsible. If this film is meant to appeal to anyone with children, it may have quite the opposite effect. For while most young married folk do bemoan the lack of sex in their lives, they are also faced with much larger, very real problems, and watching Diaz run around with her flawless naked body probably will not convince many that she is any kind of normal mommy.
It is a shame, because Diaz has proven herself to be a good at romantic comedies. This role sells her short.
Perhaps even more frustrating is the role Jake Kasdan played as director on this project. An innovative filmmaker and an standout creator of truly brilliant comedic television and film, from Orange County to Freaks and Geeks to New Girl and more, Kasdan knows how to generate very honest and wonderful comedy from his cast and crew. Unfortunately, Sex Tape is just not of the same caliber as its predecessors.
All that said, Sex Tape should do a reasonable business from curious onlookers if nothing else. For serious comedy lovers, though, perhaps it would have been best of Segel’s character had Googled “remote wipe” much sooner and saved everyone the 94 minutes of boredom.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Jason Segel, Kate Angelo, Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper
Release Date: July 18, 2014