Synopsis: Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) are a married couple still very much in love, but ten years and two kids have cooled the passion. To get it back, they decide – why not? – to make a video of themselves trying out every position in The Joy Of Sex in one three-hour marathon session. It seems like a great idea until they discover that their most private video has gone public. In a panic, they begin a wild night of adventure – tracking down leads, roping in friends and duping Annie’s boss – all to reclaim their video, their reputation, their sanity and, most importantly, their marriage.
Sex Tape 6.5
eyelights: Cameron Diaz. the set-up.
eyesores: Rob Lowe. the delivery. its lack of gags. its interminable sequence at Hank’s mansion.
“Is it possible we forgot how to have sex?”
No one in the world would be surprised if a movie called ‘Sex Tape’ was a piece of crap. After all, it sounds desperate for attention, blatantly using sex as a marketing tool. But it doesn’t necessarily make it so: ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’, for instance, was actually an excellent film.
But a comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Siegel, about a couple who record themselves having sex but find out that it’s been disseminated to everyone they know, screams “over-the-top”. There’s very little chance that such a movie will be clever enough to produce a streak of genuine laughs.
And, strangely enough, ‘Sex Tape’ doesn’t even try. Although it’s not nearly as bad as one might imagine, a large part of the film is content with being mildly enjoyable, avoiding any attempts at overt comedy. In that respect, it made me think of ’70s-style “comedies”, which are pleasant at best.
But when ‘Sex Tape’ finally does roll out the comedy, it’s painful – so much so that I felt compelled to take a break. It tries so hard to be outrageous that it falls into the usual trap of contrivances and implausibility – you know, anything for a cheap laugh. It strains itself so much that it hurts.
A perfect example is the movie’s centerpiece, and by far worst part of ‘Sex Tape’:
Discovering that a bunch of iPads that they gave to friends, family and business partners have been automatically synched with Jay’s personal iPad, Jay and Annie try to retrieve them all before the video is watched. This leads them to the mansion of a tech tycoon who is planning to hire Annie.
The whole scene is sloppy: The couple have no idea how to justify showing up at his house unannounced, late at night, and they don’t even discuss a plan beforehand – so they improvise an incoherent ramble that shouldn’t have convinced him at all. Especially since he’s supposed to be a genius.
After they manage to convince him to let them in, they claim that Jay has to go to the bathroom. Annie distracts Hank by drinking and doing lines with him. Seriously. Meanwhile, Jay is running around the house, chased after by Hank’s ferocious dog – who simply won’t stay down and won’t give up.
It’s an endless sequence (seriously, it’s by far the longest scene of the picture!) of lacklustre physical humour featuring Jay Siegel and a rather farcical performance from both Cameron Diaz and Rob Lowe (as Hank) as they pretend to be wired on blow and yammer on and on about stupid crap.
None of it is convincing. And humour comes from truth, not bullshit.
The best parts of the picture were all in the set-up, showing how Jay and Annie met and immediately felt that spark between them, that powerful sexual pull that fired them up. They had sex everywhere, all the time, and really enjoyed sex together. They were deeply in love and it felt real.
Then they got pregnant, got married, and started their adult lives together. After many years, the spark fizzled out – something they never contemplated, even though her dad warned them. Writing in her blog, Annie wonders when the last time was that they actually saw each other naked.
…and were turned on by it.
To me, it spoke of the realities of long-term relationships, after real life intrudes and distracts one from the things that pulled the couple together in the first place. And I found that this aspect was broached credibly, with Jay and Annie realizing it and wondering how to get it back.
Hence the sex tape. As Jack Black proposes in his cameo, later in the film, it’s a symptom of something else that’s wrong in the relationship. No longterm couple makes a sex tape unless there’s something missing in the relationship already. And that’s what Jay and Annie have to figure out.
Seriously, at first I actually wondered why the film had gotten such a bad rap; it was decent enough, and pretty mature for a sex comedy. I mean, it wasn’t brilliant. Or funny. But it was enjoyable enough.
Then it devolved.
And it never recovered.
But it did leave me with a couple of thoughts:
- Firstly, I”m surprised by the amount of nudity that Cameron Diaz and Jason Siegel did for this film. It’s not especially explicit: There’s no full frontal, but there’s plenty of full backside. Siegel has never been in better shape; he obviously trained, knowing that he’s was going to bare all. He looked good – more than most middle-aged dads would. And Cameron Diaz is stunning when one considers her age. She’s retained a girlish figure without resorting to surgery or the gym. Colour me impressed.
- Secondly, I was stunned by how much of ‘Sex Tape’ is a commercial for Apple products. It’s as though the picture had been sponsored by the media giant: 1) Everyone has an iPad, not just a generic tablet or a variety of different brands. It’s iPad this and iPad that. And, wow, are they ever resilient! 2) What computers we see are Macs, with their Apple logo emblazoned on them. 3) Hank is clearly modeled after Steve Jobs in some vague fashion. But with hair. So, yeah, that bothered me somewhat. I loathe commercials.
Ultimately, though, ‘Sex Tape’ wasn’t as bad as I had initially expected it to be. But it was certainly not as good as the filmmakers intended it: It’s not all that funny, it’s certainly not clever, and what little heart it has is spoiled by a desperate and misguided quest for laughs.
Frankly, there are better ways to waste time.
Ahem… like making one’s own sex tape.
Date of viewing: June 22, 2016