SEX TAPE (2014) Struggles To Be Funny

Sex Tape posterHere’s my review of SEX TAPE (2014) which went up last week at cinemaknifefight.com, your place to read about movies, where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

MOVIE REVIEW: SEX TAPE (2014)
By Michael Arruda

There’s a sequence in SEX TAPE, the new comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, where the characters played by Diaz and Segel struggle to be intimate. They try everything, but nothing seems to work. It’s one of the movie’s more honest scenes, but it’s also symptomatic of what’s wrong with this movie. The entire film is one laborious struggle to be funny.

If you’ve seen the trailer for SEX TAPE, you know the plot of this movie. A married couple makes a sex tape to spice up their sex life only to have it accidentally shared with family and friends on the internet. Sadly, the film doesn’t offer much more in the way of surprises.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) have been married for ten years, have two kids, and seem to have lost the romance which they originally shared. They used to have sex all the time, but now, it’s not that they don’t love each other, it’s that they are simply too busy to have sex.

Finally, they arrange a date night, as Annie’s mom takes the kids overnight, but even then, it’s been so long, Annie and Jay just can’t seem to turn it on in the bedroom department. So, they decide to make a sex tape, which of course, they plan to erase the next day, but Jay forgets to do this, and the next thing they know, their sex tape has been shared with family and friends. This is because the sex tape is included in an app downloaded on a series of laptops which Jay handed out to their closest friends and family members. To get the tape back, they have to get the laptops back, and so for the rest of the movie, Annie and Jay take one outlandish action after another to retrieve the laptops.

SEX TAPE is a one joke movie— destroy that sex tape!— with only a few laugh-out-loud moments. Early on, there’s a hilarious conversation between Jay and a co-worker as they discuss taking pictures of their own private parts. I guess you had to be there. And towards the end of the movie, Jack Black, in an unbilled performance as the head of an internet porn server, enjoys a funny bit when he tries to find out who Jay and Annie are working for and spouts off an endless list of competitors filled with every possible porn name you can imagine.

But the rest of the film is trite and tired. The efforts to get back the laptops are silly and goofy, and reminded me— even though this is an R rated movie— of the antics displayed in those silly G rated Disney comedies back in the day. They’re obvious routine gags where you see the punchline coming a mile away. It also doesn’t help that the movie’s best bits were shown in the film’s trailers.

I kept expecting this one to suddenly shift into high gear and go way over the top with the humor but it never does. Its idea of a funny gag is having Diaz distract her potential boss on the first floor of his huge mansion while Segel searches the second floor for the laptop, all the while being pursued by the man’s guard dog. Ha, ha. Chuckle, chuckle. Is that Dean Jones and Kurt Russell I see snooping around the window?

The screenplay by Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, and Nicholas Stoller includes lots of discussions about sex, and lots of scenes featuring sex, but it doesn’t do a good job of making us laugh about sex. For an R rated comedy, this one really doesn’t have much of an edge to it. Stoller also wrote MUPPETS MOST WANTED (2014), THE MUPPETS (2011) which he co-wrote with Segel, and GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (2010), and the strange thing is, SEX TAPE plays like one of these PG/family comedies, which is bizarre considering the subject matter.

It’s rated R because of the partial nudity and frequent use of the F word for sex, but with the exception of one gag involving drug use, the jokes in this movie are decidedly PG-13. The potential is there for a wild comedy, the idea that a couple’s sex tape has been launched onto the internet, but even this isn’t the case. It’s only on a handful of laptops, and so all Annie and Jay have to do is find those laptops. They’re spared having to deal with the outside world.

And the tape itself we never see other than the goofy first few seconds where Jay utters “hello” and sounds like an idiot. To be fair, we finally do get to see parts of it at the very end of the movie, but it’s a case of too little too late. It reminded me of THE HANGOVER PART 3 (2013) where one of the film’s best moments was the film’s final scene.

Director Jake Kasdan fared better with the earlier Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel comedy BAD TEACHER (2011) which I thought was funnier than this movie. There’s not much about SEX TAPE to lift it above other comedies of its type. The worst part is for a comedy about sex it’s unbelievably tame.

SEX TAPE works best when dealing with the realities of how difficult family life can be for married couples, and how it can be next to impossible to find time to spend with each other. These moments are true and they work, but when the film tries to be funny, it falters. The jokes aren’t sharp, mostly because what Jay and Annie have to do to get the tape back isn’t that difficult. They just have to get back a few laptops. That’s it. The story is begging for things to spiral out of control, but this never happens. The scene with Jack Black, for example, should have been a springboard for things to come.

Cameron Diaz is okay as Annie. She looks great for 41, but she’s been funnier in other movies, like BAD TEACHER (2011). Annie isn’t much of a role. Diaz is on par here with her earlier effort this year, THE OTHER WOMAN (2014).

I’ve never been much of a Jason Segel fan, and his performance in this movie did little to change my opinion. The worst part about Segel and Diaz in this film is that they don’t really share much chemistry. There’s something very arduous about their relationship here. They don’t seem all that natural together.

Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper are forgettable as Annie and Jay’s silly best friends who receive a copy of the sex tape. Rob Lowe is also on hand in a thankless role as Hank, a man who’s interested in buying Annie’s blog because of the family values it promotes, which makes things problematic for Annie when Hank also receives the sex tape. Gee, I wish someone would buy my blog.

Another problem with SEX TAPE is we never witness people’s reactions when they see the tape. Hell, we never even see anyone watching the tape! Annie and Jay bend over backwards to retrieve the laptops only to hear, “Oh, I never even used it.” These moments could have been very comical, but we’re never treated to them.

SEX TAPE had the potential to be a laugh-out-loud bawdy comedy. Instead, it’s a labored minor comedy which delivers one or two laughs, few of them having anything to do with the titled sex tape.

I give it a ho-hum two knives.

—END—

 

 

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