This has been, in my opinion, a pretty lackluster summer at the movies. Usually there are a bunch of summer blockbusters that I’m looking forward to seeing, but there hasn’t been very much this year that has captured my attention. I realized last night that I had not been to the movies in over a month, which is a really long time for me to take a break from going to the cinema. Part of that is that I’ve simply been really busy with concerts and other activities, but part of that I simply haven’t been in any big rush to see anything. There are some smaller films that I do want to check out – Chef and Belle top that list – but when it comes to big summer movies, the only thing that I’m really looking forward to is Guardians of the Galaxy in August. There have of course been big movies this year – I will never understand what people see in the awful Transformers franchise – but, other than 22 Jump Street, nothing that is even remotely appealing to me.
One film that I held out a glimmer of hope for was the new Jason Segel/Cameron Diaz comedy, Sex Tape. The previews looked pretty promising – watching Segal ask Siri how to give CPR to a dog was consistently funny – and I find the two stars particularly affable. The premise of a couple trying to get back their homemade sex tape that as accidentally distributed to all their friends and family had real comedic potential; enough so that I finally ended my month long hiatus from the movie theater and went to check out the first screening of the film.
Unfortunately, Sex Tape is not the movie that is going to turn around my summer doldrums at the cinema; despite all the ingredients being present for a theoretically hilarious movie, Sex Tape fell pretty flat. There were individually funny moments scattered throughout, but ultimately there weren’t enough laughs to make this a successful film. The likability of Segel and Diaz softened my criticism a bit, but this was a movie that just didn’t have much more to it other than a funny idea. It failed to perform, which is really the worst thing for a sex tape.
Diaz and Segel play married couple Jay and Annie who are in something of a rut; when they were dating they used to have sex all the time, but marriage and two children have cooled things off. When Annie’s blog may be purchased, the pair decided to celebrate by trying to spice things up and making a sex tape. When Jay fails to immediately delete the tape, it is inadvertently distributed to many people that they know and Jay and Annie try to scramble to delete the tape before anyone has the chance to view it. This of course leads to a comedy of errors and misunderstandings as the couple try to protect their privacy.
What was most surprising about Sex Tape is the lack of chemistry between Diaz and Segel; the two have worked together previously on Bad Teacher, but in a movie that is all about a couple’s sex life there is a lack of any real spark between the two of them. It’s hard to root for this couple when there isn’t any clear reason why they belong together other than the film tells us that they do. My inherent goodwill for both of these actors helped cover up some of this problem, but it wasn’t enough to completely eliminate it. I simply didn’t buy that the two of them were a couple that loved each other.
I wouldn’t have been able to dwell on this lack of chemistry if the laughs were coming fast and furious, but there were enough lulls that I had time to contemplate the relationship dynamics. Sex Tape isn’t without laughs and there are some moments that serve as a glimmer of the film that I think that they were hoping to make. But the film doesn’t seem to grasp the idea of diminishing returns and goes back to the same source of laughs one too many times on more than one occasion. A particular sight gag involving Rob Lowe’s character was amusing the first few times, but by the fourth time it is used it is no longer funny. There feels like there is a lot of filler in this film; the writers has a fun idea for a movie, but had no idea how to flesh out the concept and make a full feature. So the plot meanders and jokes last a beat or two too long and it winds up weakening the parts of the film that are successful. The writers just didn’t have enough material. Most of the laughs are frontloaded in the beginning of the film and as the story progresses it slowly begins to run out of steam.
It is also worth noting that for a film about a sex tape, I didn’t find the film all that salacious. We saw more of Jason Segel in Saving Sarah Marshall; in fact, the only nudity that we get from either actor is shot from behind. The sex that is shown isn’t particularly sexy either – it’s all for comedic effect. The film is rated R, but I’d argue that is more for language and subject matter more than sex or nudity. I didn’t go to this film expecting to be titillated or scandalized, but some people may not exactly be getting the film that they thought they were getting. Even the humor isn’t all that adult in nature; there honestly won’t have to be that many edits made when this film inevitable winds up on FX in a few years. Some people will be offended because people are always offended, but I didn’t find much in Sex Tape that you wouldn’t find permissible on basic cable. Any kids that sneak into this film thinking that they are going to see something indecent are going to be sorely disappointed.
Some other thoughts:
- No need to stay after the credits; unlike most films in this genre, there are no hilarious tags at the end. And don’t Google “Sex Tape post credit sequence” like I did, because you probably aren’t going to want the majority of the results. Or maybe you will – to each their own.
- I’m still a little freaked out by how skinny Jason Segel has gotten; his face is so much thinner than I’m used to seeing him.
- This film tonally is a little inconsistent; the scene with Rob Lowe in the middle is genuinely very weird.
- For a woman who is a mommy blogger, Diaz doesn’t seem to like being a mommy all that much.
- I’m not usually a Jack Black fan, but he is used just the right way in this film- though I did notice that his dialogue seemed very repetitive.
- A lot of the plot of this film is like a Rube Goldberg machine – it’s very clearly an overcomplicated contraption to keep the movie plugging along. There were several times during the film where I thought to myself that this problem could be solved in a much more efficient manner. Again – not as noticeable or problematic when there are more laughs, but with time to dwell on things it becomes apparent that everyone is working very hard to make this as complicated as possible.
- Is a woman in roller skates a male fantasy? First Boogie Nights and now Sex Tape.
Sex Tape isn’t as dreadful as its current rating on Rotten Tomatoes – hovering around 17% – but it isn’t the comedy that is going to ignite the second half of the summer movie season either. It certainly isn’t worth plunking down your hard earned money to see it at the theater. But in some ways it is worse than simply being bad – it’s ultimately just forgettable. By the time I got home from the movies, I’d pretty much wiped the film from my memory, which is never good but is especially telling since I live one mile from the cinema. The premise of Sex Tape isn’t the problem; it’s the execution that fails this movie. The lack of chemistry between the stars and the sporadic laughs illuminate the fact that the writers only had a half-baked concept when they started filming. Sex Tape isn’t all that sexy, but the much bigger problem is that it isn’t all that funny.
Sex Tape opens nationwide today.