About halfway through Sex Tape, main character and technology-challenged Jay is rummaging through the mansion of Hank, the would-be buyer of his wife, Annie’s, popular mommy blog. He’s frantically searching for an iPad that contains the sex tape in question, one that he filmed with his wife and neglected to delete and that then synced with used iPads he had gifted to friends and the mailman. The couple, however, are at Hank’s on the pretense of a fundraising drive for an enlarged kidney charity and Jay’s sudden bout of explosive diarrhea. As he darts through the house, a vicious dog chases, bites, and claws at him while Annie tries to distract Hank by doing lines of coke. After a solid five minutes of running around, Jay screams, “What the fuck is happening?”
That turns out to be the guiding question in Sex Tape, a film that is far tamer than its title suggests. You’ll be surprised that there is an underlying sweetness to it all, but the movie on the whole is a sloppy effort that doesn’t really know how to show its heart. The sex part is easy. It’s the couple’s (Segel and Cameron Diaz) raison d’être, and when they find their libido compromised by the birth of two children and their gradual descent into adulthood, they hope to recover their rabbit days by filming themselves enjoying The Joy of Sex. Needless to say, Jay’s decision to keep a copy of the video is a bad one.
The fallout is fast and furious. Annie is concerned that she will be judged more harshly than her husband, though gender politics doesn’t get much of an airing. Suddenly, the two race to recover the iPads from friends and random people, and this is where the film starts to fall apart. There’s no clear trajectory, and for a long time, it feels like the writers and actors throw up the kitchen sink in the hope that some of their crazy, incoherent ideas will stick. The Hank scene, for example, is a prolonged, random mess begging for laughs. Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper as Jay and Annie’s friends are quirky, slightly awkward foils to the more direct and exuberant pair, but that also makes it seem like they are acting in a different movie. The whole chase ends abruptly and, in order to try their luck with another possibly funny sequence, filmmakers have Jay and Annie seek out a copy of their tape that’s found its way onto the YouPorn server.
The movie turns on the idea of someone accidentally leaking a sex tape and then trying with increasing desperation to fix the mess, but that’s a story you can find in any tabloid. Sex Tape really wants to be about more than an illicit video; it’s far more interesting to watch Jay and Annie mature in their relationship and find deeper ways to love and to show it. However, the movie squanders its opportunities. I was surprised to hear Annie voice frustration about Jay’s job at a radio station, which often left her taking care of the kids while he was out at a concert. Unfortunately, this conversation gets derailed by their abrupt realization that someone’s having sex in their car. There’s room for them to discuss their problems and to honestly find ways to reconnect, mentally, physically, and sexually, so it’s too bad that, as in life, that gets pushed aside.
Prod: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch
Dir: Jake Kasdan
Writer: Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe, Nat Faxon, Nancy Lenehan, Randall Park, Jack Black
Time: 94 min
Country: United States