Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Forced Farce SEX TAPE Plays It Too Safe

SEX TAPE (Dir. Jake Kasdan, 2014)

Jake Kasdan’s follow-up to his lackluster 2011 BAD TEACHER, which re-unites that film’s stars, starts promising with Cameron Diaz mommy blogging about how her and her husband Jason Segel were once sex-crazed college sweethearts.

Diaz’s voiceover takes us through an amusing opening montage of flashbacks, featuring Diaz and Segel fornicating every chance they get; everywhere they can on campus. But now, as she laments, they’re married with two children and tons of adult responsibilities, leaving very little time for intimacy.

So Diaz decides to send the kids off to her mother’s, dress up like Roller Girl from BOOGIE NIGHTS, and entice her hubby to try every position in “The Joy of Sex.” Segel loves the idea (“I’m very excited right now!”), and sets up his new iPad to record their sexy-time activities.

After their three hour session, Segel stupidly doesn’t delete the video like Diaz asks him to do, and in the next day it gets leaked out to all the iPads that he’s given away to friends as gifts (he’s a music industry exec – reminiscent of Paul Rudd's character in THIS IS 40 - who constantly buys new iPads to upgrade, you see). As mysterious texts taunt the couple about their video’s embarrassing content, Diaz and Segel frantically scramble to keep their friends, neighbors, and even the postman from seeing it.

This is a perfect setup for some juicy social satire, but sadly SEX TAPE takes turns into severely strained sitcom terrain. Diaz and Segel running around to steal back the offending iPads takes us through several exceedingly stupid scenarios, especially one involving Rob Lowe, no stranger to sex tapes, as a CEO of a company interested in buying Diaz’s mommy blog.

Diaz and Segel deceive their way into the creepy Lowe’s mansion, and while Segel is chased by a trained attack dog while trying to retrieve his iPad, Diaz snorts cocaine with Lowe as Slayer blares on the stereo.

This sounds funnier than it is, as I bet much of the movie would in description, but the sloppy execution creaks resulting in more cringes than laughs.

Rob Corrdry, who always seems to be the sleazy best friend to the male lead in these movies, and Ellie Kemper (The Office, BRIDESMAIDS) tag along as Diaz and Segel’s neighbor friends, whose son (the obnoxiously smug Harrison Holzer) turns out to be the one who discovered the video. Holzer tries to blackmail Segel with the threat of uploading their film to YouPorn unless he’s paid $25,000, so then the plot goes from getting back all the iPads to breaking into the pornographic website’s headquarters to get the video off their server.

For all of Segel’s constant yapping about how nobody understands “the cloud,” and the privacy issue conflicts that the film flirts with, SEX TAPE really doesn’t have any real take on touchy subject of sex in the age of the internet. Its only semblance of a point of view, offered by Segel after finding an eleven inch double-sided dildo in a drawer in Lowe’s home, seems to be that everybody has sexual fetishes that they’d prefer to keep private.

Despite that plenty of Diaz and Segel’s flesh is on display, this forced farce is tediously unsexy. It keeps dangling the carrot of racy fun in front of its audience, then snatches it away again and again. Even when it gets to its HANGOVER style finale – i.e. in which we finally get to see a bit of the shenanigans the whole film has been teasing – the clunky slapstick in each shot sabotages any sense of titillation.

SEX TAPE doesn’t improve much on Kasdan’s BAD TEACHER (soon to have a sequel) and it comes nowhere near the comic heights of the director’s best film WALK HARD. It’s a shame because Diaz and Segel have good comic chemistry together – their excited back and forths made me giggle a few times – but they so deserve a much sharper, way weightier screenplay than what Segel co-scripted with Kate Angelo, and Nicholas Stoller.

I so wanted to like it because Diaz and Segel make such a likably attractive yet dorky couple. It's too bad that they're stuck in this throwaway of a summer comedy, one that, much like Ben Falcone's mediocre Melissa McCarthy vehicle TAMMY, overestimates how laughter it can get from its talented cast riffing on top of a bare bones lowbrow premise.

More later...

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