A single movie hasn’t managed to bring down a studio since “Heaven’s Gate” demolished United Artists back in 1980. “Sex Tape” probably won’t singlehandedly bring down Sony Pictures, but it could incite a shareholders’ revolt. Someone thought it was a good idea to spend millions making this movie, which is ill-conceived and poorly executed.
Amazingly unfunny, this tortured comedy about a suburban couple who try to spice up their flagging sex life by making drunken sex video and then suffer a major psychotic episode when the video is accidentally synced to dozens of iPads, feels easily twice as long as its modest 90 minute running time. The couple, played by a chemistry-challenged Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz, actually think they’re going to solve their problem by stealing back all the iPads, which is about as sensible as trying to steal every copy of the morning paper that’s running your mug shot.
Yes, you’re supposed to identify with them. No, you won’t want to.
Needless to say, the title’s a misnomer - as any middle school student knows, no tape is involved unless you’re using your eighties camcorder. Perhaps that helps explain why the main characters are so hopelessly inept with technology. It is symptomatic of what passes for logic as the two main characters embark on a one-night odyssey to retrieve all the iPads that have the video. This eventually leads them to the palatial home of Rob Lowe, as the president of a company that might be hiring Diaz’s stay-at-home blogger. At this point, screenwriters Kate Angelo (“The Back-up Plan,” TV’s “Becker,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Will & Grace”), Segel and Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek,” “Neighbors”) actually seem to be set on offending the audience as Diaz snorts cocaine so as not to offend Lowe, while Segel, ransacking the house for one of the iPads, is understandably attacked by a large German Shepherd who’s merely protecting his home. Quite apart from the fact that this gag has been done to death, and in any number of movies better than this, you should in fact be rooting for the dog, who suffers numerous injuries at the hands of the unrepentant Segel. If that isn’t enough, the couple also take their children along as accessories to multiple felonies when they can’t get a sitter.
If you’re still rooting for the main characters at this point, you should be googling therapists. Nothing, not ethics, morality or the law, will stand between these characters and their nearly sociopathic obsession with saving their own reputations. You can make shock comedy about people like this. The heroes of “National Lampoon’s Animal House” don’t do a single decent thing in the entire movie. But “Sex Tape” isn’t a shock comedy. It has a mushy core, like produce left too long in the bottom of the bin. We’re meant to go “Awwww…” as the characters profess their love for each other, laced though these protestations are with obligatory F-bombs. “Sex Tape” has the mentality of a padded sitcom episode with nudity, sexual references vulgar language and on-screen drug use. This is a classic example of Hollywood thinking it’s cool while playing it safe.
Cameron Diaz looks great in the movie, even if one suspects a body double might have been used in some shots. As to the nudity, viewers should nonetheless be prepared for the fact that they will see more of Mr. Segel’s posterior than anything else. He appears to have slimmed down in expectation of these sequences. There is no obligatory d**k shot, possibly nixed by Mr. Segel, who was also an executive producer on the movie.
A capable supporting cast, including Rob Corddry, Ellen Kemper, Nancy Lenehan and an unbilled Jack Black are largely wasted. Actor/writer/director Nat Faxon (“The Descendants,” “The Way Way Back”) makes an on-screen cameo. He also appeared in Melissa McCarthy’s current vanity project “Tammy.”
Jake Kasdan’s direction is uninspired and technically barely par. There are continuity errors in Segel’s dog damage makeup, and the digital effects to make the stars look younger in the prologue are actually kind of creepy. The product placement for Apple is nearly non-stop. Too bad no one thought to call the technical support number. This whole mess could have been avoided.
"Sex Tape" is now showing at theaters across the Capital District, including the Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland in Schenectady, the Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, the Rotterdam Square Cinema, the Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13 & RPX, the Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX and the Regal East Greenbush 8.