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Movie Review: 'Sex Tape' is Funny but Lacks Edge

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in 'Sex Tape'
Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in 'Sex Tape'
IMPA

Sex Tape

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The last time we saw Cameron Diaz (ignoring The Other Woman because it's terrible) she was straddling a car while Javier Bardem watched in awe/horror in The Counselor. She's shaken her butt in two Charlie's Angels movies and used male body fluids for hair gel. Basically, raunch is not something she's afraid of in the least, but what will surprise those expecting her new comedy Sex Tape to be full of it, they'll find it's more sweet than salacious yet still very funny.

Reuniting with Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan and co-star Jason Segel, Diaz is the star of this show because, like in the world of adult entertainment, nobody cares about the dudes. She plays Annie, a married mother of two who is trying desperately to figure out where the passion in her marriage has gone. Recounting her sexual history with husband Jay, they started off hot and heavy in college, thinking they'd retain that physical desire through pregnancy and marriage. The flashbacks, which feature Diaz and Segel distractingly aged down, are hilarious for the novelty and frequency of their characters' sexual acts. But years later the romance is gone and they can barely remember what sex is supposed to be like.

She's a blogger who writes about motherhood while he has a nebulous job at a radio station, and their seemingly disparate careers collide in ways neither could predict. When a major corporation agrees to buy Annie's blog to turn into a wholesome family destination, it's a cause for celebration. Sending the kids away for the night, she dresses up like Roller Girl from Boogie Nights and engages in an epic 3-hour ("That's the length of the movie Lincoln! You did the full Lincoln!") sex romp with Jay in which they do every position in ‘Joy of Sex’. And as part of this renewed coital vigor, aided by a healthy dose of tequila, she also suggests videotaping the night. She demands he erase the footage afterwards, but of course he forgets and this is where his job screws things up even further. Jay has these amazing playlists stored on his IPad and is constantly getting new ones and giving away the old IPads as gifts so others can have the same music. But what he didn't realize is their sex tape would also be synced and sent out to all of the old IPads he gave away. Of course this is stupidly far-fetched but Jay is just enough of a moron that we can accept it and the wild goose chase that follows.

For a couple of reasons Sex Tape reminded me of the first couple of National Lampoon's Vacation flicks. Jay's forgetting to erase the tape was a call back to Clark Griswold's doing the same to his wife, and her image ended up plastered all over Europe as a result. Their increasingly zany journey to collect every single IPad ever given away is one that we know is doomed for failure and significant amounts of property damage. Accompanied by their horny best friends (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper), Annie and Jay's weirdest stop involves a run-in with the publishing guru who wants to buy her blog. Turns out he's not so wholesome (his collection of Disney-themed art is creepy as Hell) as his public persona would suggest, and as played by Rob Lowe it's probably the most inspired sequence with drugs, rabid attack dogs, and more. It's basically the centerpiece scene and the script by Segel, Nicholas Stoller, and Kate Angelo jams a lot of craziness into it. Pacing becomes an issue as a result, with the energy dipping substantially as a crop of useless subplots emerge to pad out a thin narrative. We get the central message within the first five minutes; marriage is tough and maintaining passion is even tougher, and it would be great if the issue was tackled with more of an edge. Yes, there are glimpses of nudity and kinky sexual acts in the beginning but once that's over the film is fairly inoffensive. Fortunately, Diaz is versatile enough to shine no matter what, and she's really been hitting her stride as of late. Segel, looking gaunt now that he's gotten into shape, doesn't get as many laugh lines as Diaz but he's got impeccable chemistry with her that elevates the humor a great a deal.

Sex Tape has plenty of laughs but is less like a racy secret rendezvous than an enjoyable date night at the movies.