Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: Sex Tape

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
This summer's major studio releases have included a fair amount of mediocrities, but "Sex Tape" is the first all-out catastrophe. Here's a movie intended to be a comedy starring two likable people who, when given the right material, can be very funny. And yet this picture strains for laughs and bends over backwards to be as crude as possible, but without ever being remotely humorous.

Its stars, Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, previously worked together on director Jake Kasdan's "Bad Teacher," which also sprung from a one-joke concept, but to better effect. In "Sex Tape," which has also been directed by Kasdan, they play Annie and Jay, a married couple with two kids whose only discernible personality traits are that she writes a blog about being a mother and he holds some sort of job at a radio station and that, early in their relationship, they spent a lot of time in the sack, but are now too tired to be frisky.

So, to spice things up, Annie suggests they make a sex tape with Jay's iPad and he is all for it. Annie asks Jay to delete the video, but he doesn't and it ends up being sent to all of the iPads that, in one of the narrative's more contrived plot devices, he has given away to people, including Annie's mother, their best pals Robby (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper), the mailman and the owner (Rob Lowe) of a family-friendly company who intends to purchase Annie's blog.

The couple spend much of the film hunting down the iPads and destroying them to prevent their video from hitting the Internet, but two problems arise - Jay has been receiving text messages from someone who clearly got a kick out of the video and does not intend to destroy it and the sex tape has been sent to YouPorn, a YouTube of sorts for, well, you know.

The big reveal of who has been sending Jay the texts is not particularly funny and, admittedly, a little creepy. And a sequence during which Annie and Jay speak to YouPorn's proprietor - which involves the type of celebrity cameo that Hollywood loves to dish out in these types of comedies - leads to one of those groan inducing moments when a character literally has to spell out the movie's theme - which, in this case, is pretty flimsy anyway.

All of these problems - or, at least many of them - could have been forgiven if "Sex Tape" were funny, but it's not. Diaz and Segel try to make the material work, but it's not enough - the film is devoid of laughs.

There's one particular scene that appears to have been the big comedic set piece that involves Jay and Annie dropping by Lowe's home to retrieve his iPad, but results in Jay begin attacked repeatedly by a guard dog, Lowe's "family values" guy blasting Slayer records and Annie snorting cocaine. The scene is antic and plenty crass in the way you'd expect in a picture of this type, but it's more likely to get a smirk out of you than a laugh.

The best comedies allow us to get to know and care about the characters before humiliating them or making them the objects of jokes. "Sex Tape" is paper thin and just not very funny.

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