Sex Tape

By on July 24, 2014
Sex Tape

The latest stab at a romantic comedy intended for adults, à la much of Judd Apatow’s oeuvre as of late (“This is 40″, “Knocked Up”), “Sex Tape” is the story of what happens when a married couple that hit a rut decide to spice things up by doing something naughty.

In this case, they decide to work their way through a timeworn copy of “The Joy of Sex” and film the entire thing–every sexual position, warts and all. Minus the 70’s excess body hair, of course. Ask your parents–or better yet, don’t, if you know what’s good for you.

Naturally, things go horribly awry, especially when the video in question is accidentally uploaded into the dreaded cloud.

The couple’s tape is shared with family and friends, or rather those who have a connected iPad, which the husband gave out to various people over the holidays, in order to share music and the like. Can the couple retrieve all of the copies before someone downloads it onto the internet? Much less before anyone sees it?

This is one of those concepts you hear about where you’re like: how has no one done this before? Likely they have, in some smaller indie comedy few know about, but in this case, the idea gets the big budget treatment with big names to boot, including Cameron Diaz (most recently of the surprisingly-successful “The Other Woman”) and Jason Segel (late of “How I Met Your Mother”) as the couple in question. Also cropping up are Ellie Kemper (“Bridesmaids”) and Rob Corddry (“The Daily Show”) as their best friends and a fellow married couple; Rob Lowe (late of “Parks and Recreation”) as Diaz’s potential boss; and Jack Black as an online pornographer.

Astonishingly enough, this film cost a whopping $40 million to make, making it an inherent steep climb to box office success for a film like this.

It honestly never ceases to amaze me how much money Hollywood can spend on what should, by all rights, be a small, independent-budgeted movie. Sure, there are big names involved, but this doesn’t look much better visually than any number of indies I’ve seen with far lower budgets.

So where is that money going beyond to the big names? It’s not like there are big action sequences and the like. I get why a movie like Transformers cost a ton to make, but you can see why that is on the screen. I’m not sure where the money went in this case, because it sure isn’t readily apparent here.

What’s worse, the film just isn’t that funny. As indicated above, the film is clearly aiming for the raunchy levels of an Apatow production but fails miserably pretty much across the board. There are a few funny moments, such as the interaction between Diaz and her boss as she tries to get the iPad back so that she can erase the video, and things go in a decidedly unexpected direction, which involves drugs, the music of Slayer and a crazed dog. Lowe in particular really earns his paycheck in these scenes, which are admittedly funny.

Cameron Diaz, Ellie Kemper, Rob Cordry, and Jason Segel go on the hunt for a missing "Sex Tape." Courtesy of

Cameron Diaz, Ellie Kemper, Rob Corddry, and Jason Segel go on the hunt for a missing Sex Tape.
Courtesy of

Black is fairly amusing as the online porn kingpin, but the film doesn’t give him any funny lines to work with, so he’s left to make the best of what he can, by no doubt ad-libbing his heart out but to little avail. Faring only slightly better are Kemper and Corddry, who generate some moderate laughs as an undersexed couple who are more than a little turned on by the antics of retrieving the video, using it to their advantage to kick-start their own dismal sex lives.

That basically leaves Diaz and Segel to shoulder most of the film, and though they make for a charming, believable couple, they’re just not that funny here. Interestingly enough, Segel co-wrote the script, and I liked his previous efforts in that department just fine, particularly “The Muppets” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” the latter of which featured the rare full-frontal male nudity scene, showing that Segel isn’t afraid to go for broke for something like this.

But this film lacks the novelty of puppets or even something as relatively basic as a plotline that extends over a several year period, such as “The Five-Year Engagement.” Yes, there’s the general sex tape premise, but even that seems dated–shouldn’t it be sex video, or something like that? Does anyone use tapes anymore?

Likewise, I really like director Jake Kasdan. I’ve enjoyed all of the films of his I’ve seen, notably “Orange County” and “Bad Teacher.” His work here is fine, but the film just falls flat. It really goes a long way towards showing how crucial a solid script is in a case like this, and that the typical Apatow approach of “let’s do some improv and see where it gets us” is easier said than done. Yes, that approach results in some undeniably funny moments, but it’s because there’s a solid foundation for it in the script already. It’s like learning to play a specific song on an instrument: you have to learn to play it right before you start to mess around with it and do your own thing.

“Sex Tape” tries fruitlessly to do its own thing, time and again, but fails miserably by committing the cardinal sin of a comedy: it’s just not that funny. I can’t in good faith so much as recommend even renting this one at best. This movie should be watched on cable on a rainy day when nothing else is available. But really, you should look a little harder because surely you can find something better than this. I like most of the people involved, but this is one celebrity “Sex Tape” you won’t want to watch. It rates a D for dud.

Maybe they can do us all a favor and erase this before anyone else has to suffer.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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