Sex Tape: dull, tone deaf and not the least bit sexy
By Linda Barnard
Special to the Advocate
1.5 stars (out of four)
Just lie back and think of funnier films.
Sex Tape reunites Bad Teacher stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as marrieds Annie and Jay who are looking to get some heat back between the sheets. They make a sex video and then spend the rest of the movie trying to keep anyone from seeing it.
Back in college they were at it like rabbits. Now, with a couple of kids (Sebastian Hedges Thomas and Giselle Eisenberg) and first-world burdens like Annie trying to sell her mommy blog nibbling away at libido, they’re too stressed and tired to hop to it like they once did.
Inspired by their new iPad (one of a scandalous number of product placements for Apple products, along with a free ad for real-life user-submitted site YouPorn), Annie hits on making a sex video. They’ll use 42-year-old manual The Joy of Sex as a guide, going at it Julie & Julia style, page by page.
If you’re seeking titillation, you won’t find it here among the comic flailings and body slamming that resembles a sloshing tub of squid more than erotica. But it is good-looking squid, thanks to Diaz’s perky posterior and the newly trim Segel.
Frustratingly, director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher), along with screenwriters Kate Angelo, Segel and Nicholas Stoller (who teamed with Segel to pen The Muppets) seem unsure what kind of movie they want to make.
The confusion shows up onscreen in a sitcom-style effort that has a few funny lines (there’s a good Siri zinger) and even less sex or examination of the humiliating repercussions of a homemade porno spilling into the world.
That spillage happens to Annie and Jay thanks to a syncing app he’s installed for music and a wrinkle in the Cloud that downloads their romp onto all of his used iPads that he has generously gifted to everyone from her parents to the mailman.
It’s a plot device that’s been pretty much debunked but points for trying to update the old stealth emails trope.
Friends Tess (Bridesmaids’ Ellie Kemper) and Robby (Rob Corddry of Hot Tub Time Machine) offer to help gather the iPads, including one that has landed in the hands of Hank, the toy company exec Annie hopes to work for. He’s played by Rob Lowe, who knows a thing or two about sex tapes.
The mission through Hank’s mansion is pure slapstick as Annie discovers the freaky side of her possible boss while Jay hunts for the device and deals with a determined German shepherd while getting to make an epilepsy joke.
A final assemblage involving Jack Black, pit bulls and a roomful of computer servers doesn’t fit in at all. Ditto a dumb final encounter with a larcenous preteen.
And as for the mailman, who is teased over and over, it’s a joke with no payoff, forgotten in the mayhem.
It’s been done before — and perhaps slightly better by Kevin Smith as Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Smith at least wasn’t afraid to let his freak flag fly in taking on a sexy subject, even if it was often painful to watch.
It’s disheartening to see such lacklustre work from actors who are capable of much better. Diaz is a fine comic actress (There’s Something about Mary) and Segel has a lovely, loopy everyman way about him (I Love You, Man, The Muppets). It’s all wasted here.
As for Sex Tape, not tonight, dear. Or any other.
Linda Barnard is a syndicated Toronto Star movie critic.