REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For 21st Century Media
Do you remember back when you first learned about the existence of the word, “sex” and certain vernacular terms for carnal intercourse? You may not have understood what they denoted literally. However, you could nevertheless intuit that there was something forbidden about them. For some, uttering these naughty words out loud produced an undeniable visceral rush.
The title of “Sex Tape” might dupe you into thinking that it has an erotic edge to it. As if to buttress the misconception that it did, the script resorts to having co-protagonist, Cameron Diaz repeatedly drop the f-bomb with abandon throughout the film. Despite the titillating title, persistent use of gratuitous obscenity, and a smattering of nudity, “Sex Tape” is a startlingly bland affair.
When Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Diaz) first met as undergraduates, they experienced an immediate sexual attraction. As evidenced by a montage of their collegiate trysts, it becomes abundantly clear that they enjoyed frequent and intense encounters.
The film leaps a decade into the future. The couple’s libidinous passions have been sublimated. Their energies have been redirected toward raising two kids (Sebastian Hedges Thomas, Giselle Eisenberg) and pursuing their respective careers.
Jay works for a radio station. He gives away iPad tablets to people, replete with tune mixes, which he has programmed onto them. Jay has installed a sophisticated synching app on these gift iPads. This enables him to remotely update the iPads with new music, whenever he discovers it.
Meanwhile, Annie has developed a popular blog, which caters to other mommies. A mainstream company expresses a desire in purchasing her website for big bucks. The company’s CEO, Hank Rosenbaum (Rob Lowe), emphasizes how important it is for Annie to conform to their wholesome image.
One night, while the kids are away, Annie conjures up an idea for reigniting the sexual passion that the couple once shared. They go through every position delineated in “The Joy of Sex” with a joyless dedication. Their total lack of spontaneity is excruciating and pathetic to witness.
To spice things up, they make their very own X-rated porno of the three-hour marathon. Immediately afterwards, Annie insists that Jay erase the tape. Instead, he accidently uploads the licentious video onto the cloud. From there, courtesy of the synching app, everyone on Jay’s distribution list receives a copy of it.
The rest of the film is devoted to the couple running around town in a frenzy. They are hoping to recover the iPads from their owners before the presence of the embarrassing video is discovered. Of course, this includes the seemingly prim and proper owner of the company offering to purchase Annie’s blog. Apparently, although Jay has remotely added the video onto the distributed iPads, it never occurs to him to do a remote wipe. Jay also neglects to consider that anyone could have made and distributed copies of the video before he recovers the iPads.
Nearing 42, Diaz continues to display an impressively toned body. Unfortunately, the same can not be said of her male co-star. In anticipation of this film, Jason Segel has obviously lost substantial weight. It makes him appear disconcertingly cachectic. Alas, Segel apparently didn’t get the memo suggesting that he not only reduce his avoirdupois, but also enhance his muscle tone. As a result, the audience is subjected to the unflattering sight of Segel’s naked body, which is now skinny, albeit flabby.
What is going on with Cameron Diaz’s career? Quick-someone throw her a life preserver! Was it really that long ago that Diaz regularly provided a combination of radiant good looks and talent in her films. She demonstrated a gift for light comedy in “There’s Something About Mary” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Careful to avoid being typecast, she took on serious dramatic roles in dramas like, “Any Given Sunday,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Gangs of New York.” She provided the voice and endearing persona of Princess Fiona in the “Shrek” series. Even in films of dubious merit like her debut in “The Mask” and “Charlie’s Angels,” Diaz was displaying some great dance moves.
Things started going awry in 2013, when Diaz appeared in Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor.” The fiasco depicted Diaz pretending having sex with a sports car. The bizarre, disjointed film was one of the year’s worst. I was prepared to dismiss her self-debasing performance as a one-time career aberration.
With four months still remaining in 2014, Diaz has already racked up two more certified stink bombs this year. Her previous release, “The Other Woman” was even worse than this one. That film was plagued by a horrendous screenplay, further subverted by inept direction. Her defenders tried to insist that somehow she had been entrapped in the abomination as if she was some sort of innocent bystander, not a participant.
With “Sex Tape,” we are presented with yet another horrendous screenplay again further subverted by inept direction. Blame for the preposterous script belongs to the tandem of Segel, Nicholas Stoller and Kate Angelo. Jake Kasdan provided the haphazard direction.
However, Diaz doesn’t escape culpability. She provides a thoroughly strident performance as a nagging shrew of a wife. How do you know that Diaz’s career is in trouble? Jack Black makes an appearance late in the film. His customary abrasiveness is eclipsed by that embodied by Diaz. That is a big red flag.
Referring to the putative embarrassment of the on screen co-protagonists, the tagline on its promotional posters is, “A movie about a movie they don’t want you to see.” Forget this promotional gambit, the reality is that not only the characters wouldn’t want you to see their sex tape, you won’t want to see the film about it!
“Sex Tape” purports to be a risqué comedy about carnal desire. However, it ends up being a thoroughly unfunny film and a potent anti-aphrodisiac.
* ½R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use) 94 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.