Review: “Sex Tape”

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star in "Sex Tape," here reviewed by film critic Danny Baldwin.One might naturally expect an R-rated comedy called “Sex Tape” to be boundary-pushing and taboo, but that’s not the case here, unless you find the idea of a long-married couple experimenting with a cornucopia of sexual positions or the mere mention of pornography to be boundary-pushing and taboo. In fact, “Sex Tape” is surprisingly conservative for a movie of its title. The plot centers around Jay and Annie’s (Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz’s) attempt to recover digital copies of the eponymous video, which they recorded to spice up their marriage not realizing it would upload to a cloud server synched with iPads that Jay doled out as gifts, in order to protect their harmonious nuclear existence. All that’s at stake is their wholesome family image; God forbid a married couple ever record themselves having sex.

Thus, the comedy of “Sex Tape” is derived not from sexual indiscretion, but incidental silliness. The movie is similar in this respect to Diaz and director Jake Kasdan’s previous collaboration, 2011’s “Bad Teacher,” which only traded in the forbidden as much as a Hollywood production headlined by a star with an image to protect would allow. (Arguably, Diaz’s breakthrough “There’s Something About Mary” was just as raunchy, way back in 1998.) Sure, there are some relatively tame gags about Jay and Annie’s night of sexual debauchery—like a mysterious cactus lying next to them when they wake up (we only see glimpses of what actually happened at the very end of the film)—but for the most part, the humor centers around their stupid behavior in recovering the video. Segel is usually the subject of humiliation: he gets maimed by a German shepherd, jumps off a balcony without a landing-plan, is extorted by a child, makes a pathetic attempt at a British accent, shows little understanding of how Apple products work, etc.

Viewers who don’t find unbridled foolishness all that funny—especially those unable to roll with the plot’s myriad implausibilities, designed to foster an ethos of absurdity—need not plunk down their hard-earned 10 bucks. But for those who gravitate toward this type of humor, “Sex Tape” is worth the price of admission. Not only does the film do this style of comedy reasonably well, it also has a soft (though thankfully not gooey) emotional center, with Jay and Annie’s marital endurance offering a positive message and genuine uplift. I’ll undoubtedly forget these characters in a matter of weeks, as “Sex Tape” is no more than diversionary cinema, but I enjoyed the time I spent with them.