Annie writes a ‘mommy blog’ and her latest entry is bemoaning the lack of opportunities to have sex with her husband and recalling the way they screwed like bunnies when they were first together. One night she gets the kids off to Grandma’s place for a sleepover, but she and Jay can’t quite get things going until she comes up with the idea of making a private sex tape.
First things first – even without all the F-bombs in this movie, it would still be rated R for all the sex – even if it’s only used for a very few sequences. So, yeah, if that puts you off, then this is not the movie for you.
There’s a certain manic energy that permeates the Young Annie (Cameron Diaz)/Young Jay(Jason Segal) sex sequence – they were young and in love and sex was something new, fresh and exciting. Then Jay meets Annie’s folks – the same night Annie tells them, in exactly the wrong order, ‘We’re in love; we’re having a baby; we’re getting married!” Her father’s comment? ‘Say goodbye to sex.’
And so we find ourselves back in the present, with our happily married, but sex-free, couple struggling to find the time – in between driving their son to Little League games and preparing for fourth-grade graduation. When did that happen, wonders Jay’s best friend Robby (Rob Corddry), who’s celebrating his marriage to Tess’ (Ellie Kemper) 12th anniversary.
Long story short: when the free night isn’t working out, Annie has the idea to make a sex tape – going through the positions in The Joy of Sex. Jay records their antics in his new iPad (‘the camera is amazing!’) and then forgets to erase it the next morning. Instead, he accidentally syncs it to every iPad he’s ever owned and regifted – including the one Annie gave to Hank (Rob Lowe), CEO of the company that wants to make her the voice of their (very family values orientated) company.
Even better, Jay receives a mysterious text message informing him the sender saw the sex tape. So, panic time! Annie and Jay set out on a mission to retrieve the iPads so they can preserve Annie’s shot at the big job. How, exactly, that leads to Annie doing blow with Hank and Jay trying to figure out how to give CPR to a dog, is a bit of a schmozzle.
The thing is that, up until the moment Annie and Jay begin their quest to retrieve the iPads, Sex Tape has been quite a bit of fun. Right up until the moment Jack Black appears as a married porn mogul (owner/operator of a site call U-Porn), the movie falls apart – sliding into the kind of uninspired silliness that you just know Judd Apatow would have made gold.
While Black is trying to get out who these people are, his wife is discovering that she reads Annie’s blog – and thinks it’s wonderful! Which is the oddest crucial moment I’ve seen in a movie in I don’t know how long!
Eventually, Annie and Jay do find out who sent the mysterious text, though who would believe them? And finally sit down just to take a quick scan through the video to see what they actually did – the second funniest section of the movie. Hint: ‘Stick the landing!’
Sex Tape was written by Katie Angelo, Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller from a story by Angelo.It wants to be an Apatow movie so badly, with its mix of crudity and heart. It was directed by Jake Kasdan – whose Zero Effect and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story were brilliant films that never quite got the audiences they deserved. Sex Tape may get the audience his earlier films didn’t, but it is the weakest of them.
Working with the high concept moments – like the screw like bunnies aspect of first love, of the actual sex tape – Kasdan nails it. He gets the mix of love, awe and lust that makes that first love/serious sex thing so wonderful; he gets the way that just the idea of making a sex tape could re-energize a relationship – but that it could be a sign that there’s more (or less) going on in a relationship that is actually re-energized by doing that.
What does he doesn’t seem to get is the dynamics of slapstick in any other context. What should be scenes that get the audience laughing hysterically, barely register on the giggle-ometer. He’s better with the tender family moments, but Sex Tape only really works when it’s actually dealing with the sex.
Points to Segal and Diaz who are totally committed to every gag – and who both look really good doing so. Points to Rob Lowe for just about saving the iPad retrievals section of the film. He plays against type so well. Points also go to the film’s running time – 94 minutes – because the slapstick, chase and retrieval bits are only a bit more than a third of the movie. There’s just enough time left for the sex stuff and the sweet family stuff to ease the film into a better grade.
It also helps that there was a bit of Big Drink left at the end of the movie, making it register (barely) positive on the Big Drink Scale.
Final Grade: B-
Photos by Claire Folger/Courtesy of Columbia Pictures