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Watching stuff: "Sex Tape"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: July 18, 2014



The new movie "Sex Tape" would have been an amusing, R-rated hour-long special on HBO. But stretched out to 90 minutes for big-screen consumption, it lapses into some shaky late-stage plotting that is no longer amusing, especially in the context of what has gone before.

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star as a couple who, after a constantly-hot-for-each-other courtship, have seen marriage and parenthood give them the sexual blahs. Looking to spice things up, they decide to record a sex video (there never is an actual "tape") on an iPad*. That marathon of rutting, though apparently enjoyable for both, then somehow is released onto other iPads owned by friends, family and Diaz's possible future boss.**

This leads to a mad scramble by Diaz and Segel to get to those iPads and delete the video.*** This leads into the funniest part of the movie, a prolonged attempt to get an iPad from Diaz's possible future boss, played by Rob Lowe. Lowe has been delivering full value in comedies for a long time now, and he does so again here, making every one of his ever more surprising actions utterly convincing. And when that' not of interest, just keep an eye on the paintings on his walls.

And there's an entertaining companion sequence with Segel at odds with Lowe's very determined dog. A lot of this is silly, with plenty of slapstick, but it works.

Only then the movie doesn't. Once Segel and Diaz are done with Lowe, the movie looks around for a way to keep things going, since it has used up all its comedic firepower and is only an hour old. It then brings out yet another problem for Segel and Diaz, involving blackmail and the YouPorn website, and none of it is very funny. Not even the arrival of an unbilled comedic star improves the proceedings much.

And that's too bad. That first hour of "Sex Tape" is, in its raunchy**** way, thoroughly amusing. Certainly more so than the recent comedic misfire "Tammy." But the writers (who include Segel) did not think through their premise well enough to create an entire movie. This one is finished well before it is done.

*No generic brand references in this movie; lots of specificity, including not only the iPad but the YouPorn website.

**This is apparently not possible.So Segel's character is correct when he says no one understands the Cloud. I sure don't. Of course, I don't sit around thinking about whether there is a god of thunder when watching "Thor," so I guess we can just go along with this premise.

***I would have thought that he could have just deleted it from his iPad and then re-synched with everyone. But then there wouldn't even be the first, funny half of the movie. Or I don't understand the Cloud either. And the movie does sort of address Segel's tech-ignorance later.

****The raunch, by the way, is basically verbal and acrobatic -- perhaps surprising in a movie about a sex tape, but it's not really about what's in the tape as much as it is about such a tape existing.  Segel has shown more of himself onscreen previously, and Diaz is also kept mostly covered.

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