Film Review: Sex Tape

Couple's homemade porn circulates on the web in an R-rated comedy that wastes the talents of its stars.

Everyone tries too hard in Sex Tape, a labored farce that's as generic as its title. The movie's subject and the presence of Bad Teacher principals Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and director Jake Kasdan will attract some initial box-office attention. But word of mouth should quickly consign this to streaming sites, where it will compete poorly against more explicit fare.

The premise of Sex Tape sounds timely enough. With two young kids, suburban husband and wife Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) fear the spark has gone out of their marriage. After a few drinks, they decide to record themselves acting out The Joy of Sex, a jump in logic that jerks the movie from romantic comedy to icky fantasy.

Like a typically addled sitcom husband, Jay then posts the footage to a network of iPads he's given to friends. Can Jay retrieve the material before Annie loses her new job with a family-oriented toy company?

A comedy this mainstream wouldn't dare force its stars to actually face up to their actions. Instead, Jay and Annie work their way through increasingly contrived yet weirdly inconsequential situations that have little to do with their marital problems. They have some sniggering moments with married friends Robby (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper). In the movie's ugliest subplot, Robby's son Howard (Harrison Holzer) tries to blackmail his father's friends.

Jay and Annie have an extended encounter with Hank (Rob Lowe), Annie's new boss, at night in his mansion. Everyone hopes viewers will connect Lowe with his own real-life sex tape, at this point a minor blip in the cultural consciousness. Unfortunately, that's about all the writers can come up with, other than to give the actor 30-year-old gags about cocaine while Segel suffers through bits with a guard dog.

Despite tired slapstick routines and endless montages, Sex Tape runs out of material long before its ending. Not even a visit to a YouPorn warehouse, where a well-cast guest star shows up, can enliven the proceedings.

And despite its strenuously leering tone, Sex Tape is surprisingly antiseptic. Sure, Segel and Diaz moon viewers and curse a lot, but they fail to generate genuine sexual heat. Maybe their lack of chemistry was intentional, although that would make the ultimate point of Sex Tape even more baffling.

It's a frankly awful feeling to watch appealing performers like Segel and Diaz stranded in a weak sketch that goes on forever. But who can judge the power of a paycheck? The movie ends with the leads watching their "sex tape," which manages to be as soulless and shame-inducing as the real thing.

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