Movie Review: “Sex Tape”

Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper
Jake Kasdan

The screenplay credit may reveal more about “Sex Tape” than it cares to admit. Karen Angelo gets both a story and screenplay credit (yep, this movie was a woman’s idea), with lead actor Jason Segel and his writing partner Nicholas Stoller sharing a joint screenplay credit as well. For the sake of Segel and Stoller’s reputations as writers, we are going to hope that they went into production with Angelo’s draft of the script, only to have Segel and Stoller punch it up once they realized it wasn’t working, and then realizing that there wasn’t enough time to get it completely right, so they settled for this. That is the only way to explain how Segel and Stoller would be part of something so emotionally tone-deaf. The characters in “Sex Tape” don’t have personalities: they have quirks. That’s not the same thing, by a damned sight.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Segel) are harried with children, with neither the time nor the energy to invest in their sex life as they did when they were younger and childless. Both recognize that this is a problem, and they decide to make up for all of the missed opportunities by making a video of them performing every position in the 1972 book “The Joy of Sex.” The plan is for Jay to delete the video in the morning, only he doesn’t. Later the next day, Jay receives a text from an unknown number, telling him that they’ve seen the video. It went out after Jay did a group sync of the contents of his iPad (that was the camera) with several other iPads that he has recently given away to friends and colleagues. Annie is naturally embarrassed, but worse, she gave one of those iPads to Hank (Rob Lowe), who’s considering buying Annie’s mommy blog.

It’s amusing that publications like GQ ran pieces this week about whether the plot of “Sex Tape” could actually happen (official answer: it can’t). The piece was both informative, but also protesting too much, methinks (GQ’s staffers are clearly Hiding Something). Even more amusing is the idea of Diaz and Segel going to college at the same time (she’s eight years his senior). She looks fantastic though, and the two have good chemistry, though strangely, they had better chemistry in “Bad Teacher,” which is actually worse than this movie.

The setup had “Horrible Bosses”-type possibilities; it’s easy to envision the raunchy city-wide race to cover your tracks. In this scenario, Annie and Jay visit the homes of every recipient of an iPad to delete all copies of the video courtesy of some awkward and lame but believable and honest excuse for why they stopped by without calling (because really, who does that anymore), while simultaneously trying to discover the identity of the mystery texter. That movie could have been funny. In this movie, however, they visit two houses, make up the worst possible excuses for stopping by – most of the time, awkward humor just looks like bad improv, and filmmakers would be wise to recognize this – and reveals the identity of the texter soon after, unprompted. And let’s not even mention the fact that the amount of money that the texter attempts to extort from Annie and Jay is outrageous to them, yet they wind up spending 60% of that outrageous amount, which is still a significant amount of cash, to clean up a mess later, without a moment’s hesitation. Lesson learned by the characters, or plot point overlooked?

“Sex Tape” has lots of sass, but that sass has no direction or purpose. It’s the kid shouting the new cuss words he’s just learned, even though it’s clear that he doesn’t know what half of them mean. It is not enough for a movie to simply be inappropriate; there has to be logic and reason behind the naughty stuff, even if it’s juvenile logic. If there is anything good that comes from “Sex Tape,” it is the age-old lesson that you shouldn’t make one, ever. Ever. No, really, ever.