In “Sex Tape,” Diaz and Segel Avoid Complete Disaster, So There’s That . . .

Sex Tape

Sex Tape (Jake Kasdan, 2014)

Wow! There is not a single “top critic” on the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes that liked this film. The two reviews I read before seeing the movie were in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, and both made it seem as if the film would be a yawn from start to finish (and a messy yawn, at that). So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing in many parts, enjoying some clever comic mise-en-scène (when it happened), and even admiring the way the film put a loving married couple at the center of a raunchy sex comedy. True, the film is crass and stupid in many ways, and completely falls apart in the last third, but before it comes unraveled it provides some decent laughs. While not as good as the previous outing from the team of director Jake Kasdan and stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, Bad Teacher, it still manages to entertain (for a while, at least). if that’s damning with faint praise, so be it, but the film is far from the unmitigated disaster that reviews would lead one to believe it is.

What comedic success there is is due in no small part to the efforts of Diaz and Segel and a new partner in crime, Rob Lowe (who has long been proving his comic timing on the TV show “Parks and Recreation“). Diaz and Segel play Annie and Jay (loving parents of two tweener kids), whose once-active sex life we see in flashback as Annie narrates a blog post she writes as the film opens. Like so many other married on-screen couples before them, Annie and Jay now have to find time to schedule sex, and it’s getting them down. One night, after Annie has successfully closed a deal to sell her blog to a company owned by Hank (Lowe), they pack the kids off to grandma’s, drink tequila, and after failing to have sex numerous times (they’re just too out of practice), drunkenly hit on the idea of filming themselves (on a new iPad) re-enacting all of the positions in Alex Comfort’s 1970s sex manual The Joy of Sex. Bingo! Flash forward to the next morning, when Annie tells the groggy Jay to make sure to delete the file. He says he’ll do it.

Except he doesn’t, and because of a strange habit (which strains credulity) he has of giving away his older iPads every time he buys a new one, and keeping those older iPads synchronized with his current music (and, accidentally, movie) playlists, through an app he thinks he understands (but doesn’t), suddenly the “sex tape” is in the possession of more than just Annie and Jay. Whoops. The rest of the film sees the panicked couple running around trying to collect the donated iPads (because Jay only later learns that he can “remote wipe” the playlists from his home computer), resulting in ever-more-desperate adventures. One such adventure lands them at Hank’s house, since Annie (in another move that strains credulity) has just that day given Hank (who hardly needs it) one of Jay’s used devices. But stupidly plotted though Hank’s involvement may be, the resultant mayhem is well worth watching, and the funniest part of the movie.

And then, yes, the story veers wildly out of control, though we do get one more funny cameo, this time from Jack Black (Bernie) as the head of their friendly local internet porn site, YouPorn (to which I will not link here). But the messes do pile up, and it becomes harder and harder to root for team Annie-and-Jay. Still, if you’re not too picky, the film provides decent slapstick before the energy disappears. It’s not great, but it’s not a total cock-up, either.

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