As Michael Mann recently discovered with Blackhat, tapping into the zeitgeist is no guarantee of success. Even if Sex Tape had been released in conjunction with Jennifer Lawrence’s Cloud-snatched nudie pics, it’s highly unlikely it would have mustered any more interest than it received last summer. It doesn’t help that the movie is crummy, of course. Yet that hasn’t prevented any countless of clueless comedies from reigning supreme at the US box office (Bad Neighbours, for example). It also didn’t stop the picture doing reasonable business internationally.
One might hope even great unwashed viewers know desperation when they smell it. An in-your-face title like Sex Tape is begging to be shunned. Perhaps the lure of seeing Cameron Diaz’s arse held sway*. She has retained a quality of Goldie Hawn goofiness into her fifth decade, just as Hawn did, and is very nearly the only saving grace of this tiresome affair.
Very nearly, because, for a brief section, this tale of a couple who make the titular “tape” on an iPad in a bid to rekindle their dwindling marital mojo threatens to actually be, you know, funny. It’s probably not coincidental that this passage of the picture has precious little to do with said home movie, other than it where a potential viewer of their indiscreet escapade lives. They visit the home of Diaz’ prospective boss (hubby Jason Segel’s a radio DJ, she’s a professional blogger; that’s the only-in-Hollywood level of the movie), who is played by none other than Rob Lowe. He of the infamous ’80s sex tape the vast majority of viewers will either know nothing of or have long since forgotten (so not a great in-joke, then).
Lowe’s been honing his comic chops of late, particularly with his insanely OTT turn in Californication. He’s good here too, but the main chuckles come from Diaz doing coke (Lowe: Where is your husband, Diaz: I don’t know. Where is that fucker?) and hubby Jason Segel fending off a German Shepherd through extreme violence. Yes, it’s the comedy of excess so beloved of Segel patron Judd Apatow, but for a few minutes the picture musters some smiles.
Jake Kasdan, son of Lawrence, is trying to replicate the success of his earlier Diaz hit Bad Teacher. But that movie’s title spoke to its content in a good way. There was much potential there. Here, it’s a case of “So they make the video. What happens next?” ninety-minute comedies should be embraced for cutting the fat, but only if they’re half decent. Kasdan’s writers (Kate Angelo of The Back-Up Plan, Segel and Stoller, who, with Gulliver’s Travels and Muppets Most Wanted are going all out for supreme stinkers lately) have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going with the plot, which is why the interlude with the coke and the dog occurs.
Then they have Rob Corddry’s kid (Corddry seems to be in everything at the moment; I’m not quite sure why) blackmail Segel, having run out of steam with the “hunt the iPads” thread. It isn’t remotely convincing, as developments go, And then they are manoeuvred into visiting Jack Black’s pornlord. Who offers them sincere marital advice. It’s that bad.
The weirdest thing is, this is a Sony movie that’s one long advert for Apple. From its amazing camera quality to its durability (“Man, the construction of these things is just unbelievable”), this is clearly a device no one can do without, even a rival electronics company.
The only well-observed moment in the movie comes very early, when Segel’s daughter asks why they keep having all these days, then going to bed at night, then repeating it over and over again. And on and on. Pointless, continuous, like Hollywood comedies. Moments later we learn she has put her finger in her butt. Which is Kasdan and Segel’s preferred level. Sex Tape’s marginal merit is that it its superior to Zach and Miri Make a Porno, with boorish oaf Seth Rogen. Segel looks awful, by the way. Like he’s about to peg out. Diaz darts about in roller-skates, and is in Hawn’s position of convincingly co-starring with a guy nearly a decade her junior. As with Hawn, though, she needs to martial her career more wisely.
*Addendum 04/07/22: Perhaps more attention should be paid to her v-line.