Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz are two of the most bankable, likeable stars in Hollywood. They have great on-screen chemistry and both have strong track records leading comedies. And yet, Sex Tape, a new film that puts them together as a husband and wife who must go to great lengths to retrieve an insane number of iPads that they have given away as gifts when their 3-hour-long sextravaganza of an erotic video (in which they demonstrate every position in The Joy of Sex) gets uploaded to the cloud, and thanks to an app called Bride of Frankensync, synced up with all of those gifted iPads, is not only not an uproarious riot, it’s not even consistently funny. Theatergoers will be able to ponder exactly how the execution on this one managed to fail when it hits theaters on July 18, but it’s fair to say that the problems start with the plot.
To recap, all of this comes about because Jay (Segel) has an iPad addiction––he has a very complicated music organizational system that necessitates him having two at once––and he feels so compelled to update them at every possible opportunity that he has given a number of his old ones away as gifts. Now, you’re probably asking yourself why a guy who is so enamored of this tech wouldn’t think to wipe the iPads before he gives them away. Fair question, and it has a pretty fair answer. Jay, who works at a radio station, makes some amazing playlists, so the real gift he gives isn’t the iPad, but the music he has lovingly curated on it. To ensure that these gifts keep on giving he uses an app to sync not only his own iPads when he makes playlist updates, but also all of the gift iPads as well. However, unbeknownst to him, the new and improved Bride of Frankensync has been syncing everything, not just his music, and that’s where this particular plot device goes astray. Jay is tech-savvy enough to develop this elaborate system, but he failed to notice what all he was syncing, and beyond that he doesn’t consider a remote wipe or consulting Apple (who could totally get you sorted out according to a GQ investigation) when he realizes his error? Not really understanding the cloud, but using it anyway? Sure we’d buy that. But, not even going through the basic troubleshooting motions doesn’t seem like something one, much less two rational adults would let happen. This lapse in logic could be forgiven in the name of comedy, but though they don’t begin there, the plot issues don’t end there.
Segel and Diaz are a believable couple and an adorable one, their marriage feels genuine, but it’s difficult to get too invested in their sex tape troubles because it never really feels as though much save for some embarrassment (which they get a heavy dose of anyway) is at stake. Yes, Annie (Diaz) is awaiting an offer on her blog and gave one of the iPads to the CEO of the company looking to make the buy (said CEO is brought to life by Rob Lowe and delivers some of the most humorous scenes in the film), but considering the frequent iPad purchases in their home and the fact that a number of people recognize Annie from her blog, it would seem that the family would be just fine, if a little disappointed if that payout didn’t come. For the high stakes, race against the clock vibe to work out in such a way that it creates believable desperation and a reason for viewers to care whether or not things get made right, the sense of what’s at risk needs to be palpable (think Tina Fey and Steve Carell fighting for their lives in Date Night).
Diaz and Segel, along with Lowe, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper and a briefly present Jack Black make a valiant effort to wring laughs out of this thin (if relatable, for some) premise, but even their combined charm and comedic chops can save the film from winding up an only occasionally amusing bit of fluff.