D: Jake Kasdan / 94m
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe, Nat Faxon, Nancy Lenehan, Giselle Eisenberg, Harrison Holzer, Sebastian Hedges Thomas
When Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) first meet they have sex all the time. They have sex in different places (sometimes in public), and they try lots of different positions; in short, they can’t get enough of each other. But then they get married, have a couple of kids and the spark and the spontaneity goes out of their sex life, and they’re reduced to making vague plans around getting together, but their plans never work out. Jay is continually busy with work, while Annie writes a blog about being a “mommy” that’s about to be picked up by a company, Piper Brothers, that promotes family values.
To celebrate an imminent offer from Piper Brothers, Annie arranges for her mom (Lenehan) to have the kids overnight so that she and Jay can have some “alone” time. Initially raring to go they soon find that getting back to having sex isn’t as easy as they’d thought. Then Annie suggests they make a sex tape of themselves doing all the positions in The Joy of Sex. Jay agrees and three hours later, exhausted and done, Annie tells Jay to erase the video. The next morning, Jay is surprised to receive text messages from someone who says they liked the video. Jay is horrified to learn that instead of deleting the video from his iPad, instead he’s synched it with all the other iPads he’s used recently and given to friends as a gift when he’s finished with them.
Annie is horrified that their friends – and the mailman – may get to see their sex tape, and tells Jay they have to get the other iPads back. First they head over to their friends, Robby (Corddry) and Tess (Kemper), and retrieve theirs, but not before they inadvertently reveal why they want it back. It’s then that Annie realises that she gave an iPad to Hank, the Piper Brothers bigwig who is preparing the offer for her blog. The four of them go to his house where Annie and Jay go inside; while Annie keeps Hank busy, Jay searches the house for the iPad. Having done enough for the night, Annie and Jay drop Robby and Tess back at their house, where their son, Howard (Holzer) reveals he sent the texts, and he wants $25,000 or he’ll let the tape be uploaded to the YouPorn website. Refusing to be blackmailed, Annie and Jay find out where YouPorn has its base, and go there with the intention of damaging the servers and stopping the upload. But they’re disturbed by the owner while in the act…
There are several moments in Sex Tape where disbelief has to be suspended so much that it hurts the movie irreparably. One such moment is when the owner of YouPorn sits down with Annie and Jay and acts as a counsellor to them both, putting aside any issues with their breaking and entering his warehouse and causing damage to his servers as if it was only a minor annoyance (though fortunately they’re not let off the hook entirely – that would have been way too much to swallow). This scene also slows down the movie and highlights the episodic nature of the script, one that feels like it’s an amalgamation of scenes the filmmakers thought would be funny to see, and which were then included in the nearest screenplay. Other scenes where this occurs include Robby and Tess on Hank’s doorstep, and an unnecessary final act at a presentation at Annie and Jay’s son’s school.
For a movie with an average running time, this amount of careless padding (as mentioned above) hurts the movie and stops it from being the laugh-a-minute success it could have been. A lot of Hollywood comedies these days are predictable and play it safe, feeling cool if they throw in a few indie-style gross-out gags for effect, and Sex Tape isn’t any different, but it has two very committed performances from Diaz and Segel, both unafraid to get naked (though not full-frontal) and both unafraid to look silly as they try to reignite the passion that’s deserted Annie and Jay. The chemistry between them helps as well, and the scene where they sound off at each other for “showing their true colours” in a crisis has all the credibility of a real couple arguing with each other.
But the duo excel when the comedy gets frantic, especially when trying to retrieve Hank’s iPad, and where Jay finds himself traversing the house trying to find it and avoid the deadly intentions of Hank’s alsatian at the same time. Meanwhile, Annie learns that Hank’s attitude to family values is definitely one that’s left at the office as he persuades her to do some cocaine. With both of them under duress, how they deal with each dilemma is the highlight of the movie.
There’s adequate support from the rest of the cast, though only Lowe stands out, his role given more attention than the others, and there’s an extended cameo from an actor who’s worked with both Diaz and Segel in the past. But thanks to the limitations imposed by the script (courtesy of Kate Angelo, Segel and Nicholas Stoller), they do what’s needed and little else. In the director’s chair, Kasdan orchestrates things comfortably but with very little flair, though the editing by Steve Edwards and Tara Timpone is astute enough to make the movie flow more easily than it might have done otherwise.
All in all, Sex Tape isn’t going to win any awards but it does provide some solid laughs and, now and again, shows a sense of its own absurdity. Some of the sit-com aspects sit uncomfortably with the more “adult” humour, but there are plenty of laughs to be had in amongst the unfortunate downtimes.
Rating: 6/10 – a little lightweight in too many areas to be fully rewarding, Sex Tape still manages to entertain for the most part, and that’s thanks to its two leads; with a tighter script and less straying from the main plot, this could have been a sure-fire hit.