Maybe you’re married. Maybe you have a few kids too. You work. You are supposed to exercise. And oh yes, there are chores and people just keep needing to be fed. Do you play golf? Book club? Well then that leaves you absolutely no time for sex. For many couples this is what they have come to despite their acrobatic Ironman-quality early sex life. Many many couples are just too damn busy and tired to get it on. And the premise of this movie, the potent premise, that so many of us can now, or could at one time identify with, is the challenge and desire to maintain hot, crazed married sex. I hope that’s not an oxymoron. Schedule an appointment to have sex with your “other?” Eww. That’s so NOT sexy. The entire thesis of SEX TAPE is ‘how do you get it back?’ I learned long ago in my youth, furtively watching the New York City semi-X-rated late night cable access TV show Midnight Blue hosted by the revolting but highly amusing Al Goldstein, do not video yourself having sex! Even if you are buff, gorgeous and pretty good at sex, it’s a bad idea and you will regret it even if it never makes you famous. That’s the whole plot of SEX TAPE. OK I’m done.
Not so fast.
I think Cameron Diaz is very very sexy. Her ass is a national treasure. Jason Segel is, uh, well…Seriously. Not. Sexy. In fact I do not find him remotely attractive. Is that bitchy? Yes it is. And I am going to speak the truth. Jason Segel has his strengths as an actor. I thought he was excellent in JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME, I LOVE YOU MAN and KNOCKED UP. Jason Segel is a great bro, dude, stoner slacker, clueless guy. He is not a romantic lead and while SEX TAPE is certainly a comedy first and foremost, it is a comedy about sex. Sex typically means kissing, nakedness and erotic stroking and canoodling. I did not enjoy watching him be a sensual, sexual character. More critical however is that Segel and Diaz have absolutely zero chemistry. They are not believable as a couple even from the funny opening montage of collegiate sexual marathons. That, my precious viewers, is a major problem. Diaz and Segel seem forced, she struggles to elicit humorous authentic dialogue from him and it doesn’t work. They orbit each other and their timing is way off. Compared to THIS IS 40, another recent film largely about married life and sex, this falls flat where THIS IS 40 was authentic, hysterically funny and Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd are a believable couple with great rapport.
That is not to say that there are no laughs in SEX TAPE. There are quite a few but they are overwhelmingly provided by the excellent supporting cast who so outshine the stars that they almost make it worth seeing. Key word there: almost. Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper play the best friend couple of our leads. They are a seemingly ‘average’ American couple who sheepishly admit to celebrating their 12th anniversary by watching an entire season of BREAKING BAD. When done skillfully, it is the unassuming characters quietly getting their freaks on which can provide the greatest laughs in a story. Joining Kemper & Corddry is Rob Lowe as Diaz’s potential new boss. Playing a plastic perfect prepster CEO of a toy company, Lowe is great at freak and projects a stunningly polished sleaziness. Their three characters provide the bulk of the humor in the film along with some very good sight gags. The scattered post-coital accessories are hilarious. A couple at a party with twins is priceless. Corddry has some of the movie’s best lines, delivered with his signature deadpan perfect timing, which convinced me that the problem lies not with the screenplay but with the casting and the directing.
Director Jake Kasdan previously directed Diaz and Segel in BAD TEACHER. That film, along with other previous efforts, WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY and ORANGE COUNTY were kinda funny. Like SEX TAPE they held great promise but, for lack of a better metaphor, couldn’t stay hard. Something just misses in Kasdan’s comedy direction and it may be that he equates intensity with humor; the harder and more frenzied his characters become the funnier it will be. Except for the fact that it’s not. It’s forced, becomes absurd, tiresome and he loses his audience. Just when SEX TAPE makes you want to run screaming in exasperation, a brilliantly cast cameo pops out of nowhere to provide some much needed closing humor and Kasdan should get down on his knees for that small saving grace. Segel co-wrote this screenplay with Nicholas Stoller (with whom he wrote THE FIVE YEAR ENGAGEMENT) and Kate Angelo who has written primarily for television. Segel should write for others and allow others to write for him, vanity projects can seriously compromise a career. Lest I bring up Woody Allen? (Even though I am a big fan. I’m from New York, OK???) The last five minutes of SEX TAPE are the best of the entire film, and I wish I could tell you its worth it getting there. But…I can’t.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe
Running Time: 94 minutes
Movie Review Sex Tape