5 September 2014

Review: SEX TAPE

You know how we were talking about Let's Be Cops' shitty timing in cinemas, with the recent fiasco involving the Ferguson PD? Well, one week later, we have a comedy in which Cameron Diaz is mortified to discover that explicit images of her have been uploaded to Apple's iCloud for the viewing pleasure of the world. It's a good thing that nothing like that has happened in real life, right?

Luckily, Sex Tape isn't nearly as offensively bad as Let's Be Cops, though that's not to say it's any good either. It's about Jay and Annie, who married young and had two kids. They're both disappointed that their remarkably high sex drives have diminished over time and they can't even find their rhythm when they have a rare opportunity to shag. Out of desperation and drunkenness, Annie suggests they film their own entirely faithful adaptation of The Joy of Sex on Jay's iPad. The hangover hits hard the next day, once they realise that the video has been synced to a number of other devices belonging to their friends, family and colleagues.

To really understand how disappointing this film is, you have to look further than the trailers, which might have suggested something about what it's lacking. This is the latest movie from Jake Kasdan, who wrote and directed Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. For those unfamiliar with my love of that movie, it is, legitimately, the funniest, most under-appreciated movie of the last decade. It's a surreal, laugh-a-minute movie that thrives as a parody because it has a firm grasp on the indulgent music biopics that it's mocking.On the other hand, if I didn't know any better, I could swear that the writers of Sex Tape don't know anything about sex or the internet or, by extension, porn.

The plot is more credible than the trailers or the brief summary above might suggest, including how Jay is able to give out iPads as gifts, but there's a ground level problem with this script in itself, in that it feels like a holdover from the 1990s, when there might have at least been a physical McGuffin. Kate Angelo takes top credit for the script, with star Jason Segel and his writing partner Nicholas Stoller also contributing, but none of them have convincingly converted the stakes into all the physical action that ensues. Despite the nomenclature, there's no actual tape, it's a digital file- even standing up and leaving the house to retrieve it feels like an overreaction.

The movie also makes quite a meal of fully explaining every bit of its overstretched understanding of tech ("It's a very powerful app", says Segel, with a totally straight face) and that kind of lets you know what you're in for from the off. The premise isn't the problem, it's the medium. This has about as much substance as an episode of How I Met Your Mother or New Girl, but both of those shows have a better grasp on sex and relationships than this kinda-raunchy-but-actually-studio-sanctioned-every-step-of-the-way movie. Many scenes are dragged out but the movie itself still feels perfunctory and short because there's really very little there- the stakes are created by the characters over-reacting, but the comedy never really follows.

For their parts, Diaz and Segel have decent chemistry together. It's no better as a vehicle for these two than Kasdan's most recent film Bad Teacher, and worse, it further exposes Diaz's tin ear for comedic timing and delivery. She's better here than in The Other Woman, but she's never been better used in a comedy than as the winsome straight-woman in There's Something About Mary. Elsewhere, Segel, who has never been less than watchable in any of these movies, manfully soldiers through some obligatory nods about the plus sides of the iPad, i.e. "amazing camera", "great display", apparent indestructibility. Neither Angelo nor Segel and Stoller deserve credit for the clumsy insertion of these ads- the best writing is whoever finagled the contract that got Apple all this positive product placement, in a film that's essentially about the perils of the Cloud.

Sex Tape feigns raunchiness but protests too much, consistently belying what is, at best, a flaccid attitude to sex or, at worst, a prudish cautionary tract about what will happen if you actually enjoy a good shag. There's an outright awful statement of theme near the end that tips heavily towards the latter of those two possible choices. The effect is like your mam and dad telling jokes about sex, but it's not so much embarrassing as it is embarrassed by itself. Jason Segel troops through it as well as he always does, but everyone else seems too giggly about the premise to fully live up to it.

In the end, I'm saying the same about this as I said about Bad Teacher- it's not awful and there's one really big laugh in there, but you should really go and watch Walk Hard instead.

Sex Tape is now showing at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Sex Tape, why not share your comments below? I regularly check on my traffic sources, so welcome to anyone who read this far after Googling "Cameron Diaz sex tape."

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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