Annie and Jay have been married for years now, have two kids to take care of and, as a result, they don’t have as much time for each other as they used to. As a result their sex life has been stuck in a rut for a while, but then Annie comes up with a plan to re-energize it: to make a sex tape. While that idea proves to be a solid one, the aftermath is far from ideal when Jay forgets to delete the movie file and it gets distributed to all the devices of friends, family members and coworkers via the cloud. Because “nobody understands the cloud” the pair then scrambles to delete each and every single copy of the video before they’re found out.
It’s a perfectly serviceable premise for a film that tries to be raunchy but also wants to explore some very real issues pertaining to family life. Unfortunately Sex Tape thinks it being naughty because of its title and the fact the F-word gets thrown around a lot, and thinks it tackles some universal subject matter by only mentioning the basics of what young families go through. It doesn’t work and the result is a movie that isn’t shocking or heartwarming, but a rather bland, half-baked and unsuccessful attempt at mixing these two different components. While May’s Neighbors was a flawed film, it was one that did take chances with its material and therefor earned its R-rating while it also managed to paint a true-enough picture of what obstacles young parents encounter. Sex Tape merely uses its setting and premise as the glue that holds several segments together, sequences that could have been put in any other comedy.
That being said: some of these scenes and some of the movie’s characters do work. Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper, for example, steal every scene they’re in as a very likeable and goofy husband and wife, and they manage to inject some much needed charisma and fun into the film whenever they are on screen. Rob Lowe is another scene stealer: he portrays Hank, an executive that Annie tries to impress. But when she and Jay visit Hank’s house to steal his iPad, he turns out to be an entirely different guy than he first appeared to be. Meanwhile Jay finds himself in a ludicrous slapstick sequence with a dog that, at times, looks to Jurassic Park for inspiration. It’s all utterly ridiculous, which is exactly why these characters and scenes do work well: gone is the forced and uptight approach to film, and instead there’s a some actual fun to be had. Unfortunately these moments are rare and throughout the entire film the two leads do little to keep you invested: Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel have very little chemistry together and their characters also lack depth and personality, which is more of a screenplay flaw than the actors’ fault.
But ultimately every sense of fun in this comedy gets crushed once the final act of the film rolls along and Sex Tape decides to take the moral high ground. In that moment the movie starts beating you over the head with its puritanical message and because of it Sex Tape becomes unbearably hypocritical: it starts criticizing the whole object the movie has been built around, namely the sex tape. In the end the film reveals itself to be very little more than a message wrapped in some faux-daring packaging, a vessel for a morality lesson. While that does explain why Sex Tape as a whole is as toothless as it is, it also makes it hard to come away with any other conclusion than that the movie as a whole is entirely pointless.
Sex Tape has very little more to offer than a handful of funny moments. Most of it is bland, uninspired and conventional, but worst of all is its decision to lecture its viewers. That decision leaves a bad taste in your mouth. 4/10