Apparently women love to blog. Hollywood seems to think they like narrating their blog posts too. You’ll see bad movies open and close with it like they’re Kevin Hart’s mouth.
When a woman starts blogging in film, that’s when the red flag goes up. Cliché alert. Sex Tape starts with Cameron Diaz hard at work on her latest mommy post with her mom sweatpants and her tired mom hair. Uh-oh. But wait—this time she’s blogging about erections. She’s completely bonkers for her husband’s boners (Jason Segel) and she can’t stop talking about it. “I love erections.”
Her post— narrated over shots of Segel and Diaz tainting every square foot of a college campus—reads like a government censored item from the Dr. Seuss explicit collection. Would you like them here or there? Would you like them in a house? You may like them in a tree? Would you beat them in a box? Would you beat them with a fox? Would you, could you in a car? A train! A train! Could you, would you on a train? Would you, could you, in the rain? Beat them! Beat them, here they are!
She’s like Julie & Julia for dongs. Or Dr. Seduce. Call it Obscene Bags & Ham.
Some see pornography as an addictive, brain chemistry altering evil; some see it five times a day. When Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) decide to spice up their lustless marriage by making a sex tape, the concept seems forced. We’re more curious about what these people do than what they do.
Jay appears to work with a lot of iPads? That seems the only logical explanation for why his work life revolves around gifting tablets to his neighbors, his parents, total strangers and the mailman. Annie is apparently accomplished as a mommy blogger who writes about erections. Hank Rosenbaum’s (a very Chris Traegerian Rob Lowe) toy company (?) wants to buy her blog.
Sex Tape plays a lot like HD porno. Bad outfits and writing headline the beginning; no one cares about the plot. Plug your nose like a dog given a pill and you can make it out of the first act without bursting out of there. When they finally get to recording the action—Jay and Annie banging out the entire Kama Sutra like a Bruce Springsteen concert—things get juicier.
Jay forgets to delete the three-hour video and instead uploads it to the elusive Cloud™ and all the iPads he’s gifted out. Sex Tape turns into a high-paced pseudo-heist comedy with Segel as Con Jeremy and Diaz as Scamela Anderson. Rushing to delete or destroy the tape off the iPads, they quickly develop chemistry that isn’t sexual. He’s got the girth for it. You’re not sure if she can pull it off. The bacchanal that ensues comes as a surprise gift.
Sex Tape doesn’t set out to be sexy. Cameron Diaz is 41 and Segel’s no Zach Efron. As she’s aged, Diaz has played roles where her beauty is suggested. It’s like she had to play slutty instead of performing pretty. In Bad Teacher, The Counselor and Knight and Day,her performances were drunk, like a binge. Maybe she thought we were bored: no one would think she’s hot unless she role-played it. In Bad Teacher, she goes for skanky educator. Stale and flat like old beer, she’s just bad. In The Counselor, she swings for seductive trophy wife. Wearing tattoos like a one-piece swimsuit and some fake jewelry, she pouts her lips and you can smell the liquor coming off her breath. Didn’t anyone tell her she’s aged like wine?
Jason Segel acts from his core—with his penis. He’s on the other end of the spectrum: he’s fully bare where there isn’t any room for pretending. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he flops out his member and he’s more naked than any of the women he’s with. Segel doesn’t seem to have any reservations. While he isn’t particularly handsome, his sense of humor and sly delivery make up for it. When you see him in I Love You, Man, he’s often an object of ridicule more than one of sexualization. Same goes for The Five-Year Engagement. Yet, he brings depth that’s sexy, not sexual. His timing is too good to notice—you’re too busy looking at his junk.
As such, Segel was probably the best fit opposite Diaz, especially after they’d already been in Bad Teacher together. Diaz and Segel have a lot of sex in Sex Tape. They’re pretty much naked half the time. We see just as much bare-ass from Diaz as we do from Segel. While she doesn’t have his humor, he takes the onus off of her to perform. In a film where the man is just as naked and vulnerable as she is, Cameron doesn’t have to worry about acting. Nothing is pornographic about Sex Tape. With Segel, they’re boinking, not banging. Their mating doesn’t turn you on—it’s just funny.
When Jack Black shows up to stop Jay and Annie—who’ve broken into his YouPorn warehouse along with their two kids—from destroying his database, he asks who sent them. Hustler? RedTube? He goes on to list off about 50 other sites uninterrupted. Hot Goo? BangBros? BangBus? Some sites are ridiculous—all of them are real. That’s the kind of movie Sex Tape is: non-stop and no mincing on their raunch. It’s a world where Jack Black can be a porn magnate and Rob Lowe can be addicted to cocaine.
Oh, yeah. The kindly Chris Traeger is a heavy-metal head-banging, blow-blowing CEO. He’s mistakenly gotten an iPad which the couple tries to retrieve from his mansion; Diaz distracts him while Segel’s “diarrhea” forces him to lurk the house. With his typical upbeat, smart manner, Lowe’s character is pluperfect.
A seeming milquetoast Jewish goody, he offers Diaz some coke to get the night started. As Segel’s chased through the house by a massive German Shepherd, we see paintings of Lowe as various Disney characters: Raffiki holding up Simba, Geppetto crafting Pinocchio, Peter Pan flying through the night… it’s all glorious and uproarious. Lowe’s scene and character are the funniest in 2014 film.
Critics are giving Sex Tape a hard time and I can see why. Often it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet; other times you’d rather skip the meal. The story elements seemed crafted at YouPorn headquarters and there’s a lot of nudity. Grandpa and Grandma definitely won’t like this movie. Sex Tape is bellicose in getting a belly laugh and more often than not they draw one out: as a comedy, it’s more Shake Weight than workout, more pull-out than pull-up. Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper and Kumail Nanjiani show up to bend you over and they get the job done. At the very least, Director Jake Kasdan’s done a much better job with this film than he did with Bad Teacher.
In a world filled with sex tapes, there’s not a lot of room for originality. Sex Tape shows the consequences that come up when something private is made starkly public. At least it’s genuine. There’s a lot of discomfort around pornography in today’s culture. If anything, Sex Tape shows that it’s always better to have the real thing.