Sex Tape is such a dumb movie that it's hard to know where to start. So let's try this: Its premise is total nonsense. Married-with-kids couple Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) decide to spice up their inert love life by filming themselves with Jay's iPad doing every position mentioned in The Joy of Sex. But after their naughty three-hour film finds its way into the Cloud, all their friends and family have access to it thanks to the iPads Jay has given away as gifts.
GQ has checked with Apple to confirm that such a thing could never happen, and sure, dopey comedies have silly setups all the time. The real problem is that Sex Tape doesn't make sense in any regard. It's yet another "shocking" R-rated comedy that's so toothless and witless that the nudity and swearing are actively irritating, reminding you of the idiocy surrounding the dirty parts.
Segel and Diaz have reunited here with director Jake Kasdan, who all worked together on Bad Teacher, which was itself a Bad Santa ripoff set in middle school. Once again, Diaz is incredibly game, flaunting her sex appeal and fearlessly flashing lots of skin in the name of raunchy comedy, while Segel plays the hundredth iteration of the bozo husband who can't believe he landed such a beautiful wife. Sex Tape's conceit is that when Jay and Annie first met, their connection was primarily sexual: Love eventually followed, but 10 years into their relationship, they still take great pride in how much screwing they do. Well, how much screwing they used to do—now, as in every bland Hollywood comedy, they're clichéd boring parents who can't find time between kids and jobs to schtup. (Wealthy, self-absorbed, and living in Los Angeles, they're a slightly more tolerable version of the couple in This Is 40.)
The idea of the sex tape is suggested by Annie during a rare night free of the little ones when she and Jay are having trouble getting their engines restarted. Because Segel and Diaz have real chemistry—their big-dork personae complement one another—one hopes that the inevitable leak will generate comedic sparks as the characters engage in a madcap attempt at damage control. Funny thing, though: The sparks never come.
Sex Tape's screenwriters (Segel, Kate Angelo, and Segel's Forgetting Sarah Marshall partner Nicholas Stoller) don't just fail to make the Cloud conundrum believable—everything after that is ludicrous, and also rarely funny. Realizing that anyone who's gotten an iPad from Jay now has the video, Jay and Annie frantically head over to the home of Hank (Rob Lowe), a CEO who wants to hire Annie because he loves her mommy blog and wants her voice for his family-friendly company. But if Hank sees the video, he'll obviously think she's a dirty slut! Oh, mercy! Never mind that anyone else who has one of Jay's iPads could easily upload the video onto the web and cause a greater scandal: Sex Tape makes it critically important that Jay and Annie steal Hank's iPad back before it's too late.
That sort of moronic logic permeates the film. The movie's inclusion of Lowe—playing a slightly less earnest, deeply disturbed version of his Parks & Rec character Chris Traeger—is meant to be a sly nod to the actor's own scandalous history with sex tapes. But because this movie skews young, you wonder if the target audience—the type who will snicker, "Heh heh, sex tape," and find the random introduction of cocaine into the plot automatically hilarious—is old enough to even remember the allusion. Also: Around the third act, a mystery character who's been texting Jay threatening to spread the sex tape reveals a miraculous/preposterous way to erase the film remotely from the Cloud, which, again, is a totally made-up thing.
As for Jay and Annie's actual sex tape, it's the first in human history to record footage using one camera that manages to show different angles of the same scene. (Of course, we get to see part of it; of course, it's not really that funny or sexy.) And for a movie that's meant to be edgy, drawing laughs from the couple's embarrassment, it never really considers a more interesting, possibly funnier scenario: What if the video did go viral? How would that affect their relationship? How would they deal with the humiliation?
Sex Tape features likable actors like Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper, and occasionally Segel and Diaz manage to squeeze a laugh out of tired, consistently overblown comic material. (Typical scene: Diaz yells at Segel, Segel yells back defensively, Diaz hits Segel.) But it doesn't matter when all this hyperactive "outrageous" behavior is all geared toward a rather predictable, lamely heartwarming notion: These two former fuck fiends come to learn that it's love, not sex, that really matters. Aw, that's sweet. Now get me outta here.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.
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