American comedies used to be about smart people doing stupid things. Now, they are about stupid people doing stupid things. Consider Annie and Jay from Sex Tape. They are faced with a terrifying predicament. Not one many of us can relate to, but one we can all appreciate the terror of. They have filmed themselves championing a three-hour long sex adventure, and now the video has leaked its way into a number of computers and iPads owned by their friends, families and possible colleagues. In a desperate attempt to salvage their dignity, they scramble the jets to track down the videos.
This in itself is funny stuff. Sex Tape, directed by Jake Kasdan, speeds headlong into chaotic drama, punctuated by Cameron Diaz’s and Jason Segel’s unbridled chemistry and onscreen antics. But they are, for a lack of a more sophisticated term, stupid characters, driven a little by desperation and more by the sheer lack of will to use their brains.
As the movie begins, Annie (Diaz) recalls her teenage years with Jay (Segel) as she writes her online blog. She details the erections, the frequent sex in unusual places, the never ending libido. Sex was so easy back then. Jump forward to now. Annie and Jay are married with two kids, and it’s safe to assume that their eldest, a son no older than 11, is paying more attention to sex than they are. Conversations between the parents are not about their children’s education, or the mortgage, or what car to buy next, but about how they need to find time to screw. For sex addicts like Annie and Jay, marriage must be torture.
After several failed attempts to bring Jay to attention, Annie comes up with the solution: Why not film a porno? Of course, Jay agrees. Why wouldn’t he? But their porno turns out to be so sexually awkward that it makes their earlier attempts look like trophy winners. And they go at it for three hours.
Sex Tape’s first act culminates in a text message, sent to Jay from an unknown number, the morning after. The person on the other end has seen the video, and now Jay is in panic mode. This part I liked, because Segel musters all that he can to exhibit bloodcurdling fear. The realisation that he didn’t delete the sex video, that he accidentally distributed it, and now might be paying dearly for his horrid mistake, is funny from a distance. But then, there is a sequence in the next act that drags Sex Tape to the edge of taste and potential and drops it headfirst onto a never-ending track of lame sight gags, languid character revelations, and a twist so moronic it literally springs a villain up from nowhere and expects us to be grateful for it (I will not reveal the villain’s identity, but when you see this film, ask yourself what this person’s motive is).
The sequence of poor taste involves Rob Lowe, a mansion dedicated to mutilated Disney paintings, a rabid German Shepherd, and lines of cocaine. None of these things tie in with the rest of the movie, or with any of the characters’ traits, however few they already possess. It is at this point in the movie that the plot began to wear hard on my nerves. The sequence is constructed by Kasdan with so little knowledge of what is meant to happen, or why it is meant to happen that all the characters involved seem to follow gag after gag merely because it says so in the script.
I learn that Segel was one of the script’s writers. I find this hard to believe, given his natural ability to fumble words into coherent comical sentences. How could a man who understands comedy green-light this kerfuffle? Perhaps he is trying to emulate Ben Stiller, who used to write himself into his movies as the degenerate loser. But Stiller’s characters weren’t stupid, merely misguided. Segel writes himself into Sex Tape as one of Hollywood’s greatest imbeciles, and then everyone else follows suit.
Best Moment | When Jay receives the anonymous text message.
Worst Moment | Everything else.