DIRECTED BY Jake Kasdan
STARS Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel
Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape (Photo: Sony)
Those who felt that 2011's Bad Teacher was a bad deal won't exactly be storming the box office Bastille to snatch up tickets to Sex Tape, given that this new comedy reunites that picture's central troika of director Jake Kasdan and stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. More charitable types, however, might be willing to take a chance, in which case they'll find a piece of comparable value: As before, a ramshackle screenplay is held together by ingratiating performances and a handful of unexpectedly large laughs.
The prospect of keeping longtime marriages afloat and energized is a popular screen topic as of late (see, among others, Date Night and Hall Pass), and Sex Tape draws from the same well. As a young college couple in the initial throes of love and passion, Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) can't keep their hands off each other, but after roughly a decade of marriage and two kids now sharing residency, finding the time or strength to engage in whoopie is about as difficult as finding that proverbial vibrator in a landfill (OK, needle in a haystack, but the other comparison seems more appropriate, yes?). But after shipping the children off to spend the night at Grandma's, Jay and Annie find they have the house to themselves and get busy getting naked. Unfortunately, their attempts at lovemaking fall flat — at least until they hit upon the idea of filming what turns out to be a three-hour tryst (with the ample positions illustrated in The Joy of Sex serving as inspiration). The next morning, Annie tasks Jay with erasing the footage; he of course forgets and instead leaves the compromising material on a handful of computers he hands out to select family and friends.
The night-long effort of Annie and Jay to retrieve all the iPads makes up a good chunk of the film, with the highlight of this section being a visit to the mansion of Annie's potential new boss Hank, a needy CEO played with pinpoint precision by Rob Lowe. This portion offers a number of laugh-out-loud moments, including ones involving Apple's Siri and Hank's assortment of Disney-inspired artwork. The film admittedly gets sillier — and, perhaps unavoidably, more repetitive — as it heads down the stretch, though there's an amusing late-inning cameo by a big star cast as a porn entrepreneur.
Given the premise, the movie doesn't push the envelope as much as it could and perhaps should, but blame the MPAA and the studio system more than scripters Kate Angelo, Nicholas Stoller and Segel. "You can cut off a breast but you can't caress it," famously stated writer-director Philip Kaufman, whose 1990 feature Henry & June was the first film to receive the stigmatizing NC-17 rating despite containing absolutely no violence or gore. Twenty-four years later, his declaration still holds true, a condition that perhaps explains why so many films ostensibly made for grownups have trouble keeping it up for the duration.