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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Sex Tape movie review: for shame

Sex Tape yellow light

Color me absolutely astonished that this is genuinely sweet and wholly sex-positive. Unfortunately, it’s also completely unfunny.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of what passes for comedy in Hollywood

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Annie (Cameron Diaz: The Other Woman, The Counsellor) and Jay (Jason Segel: This Is the End, The Five-Year Engagement) need to spice up their bedroom time: they’re still madly in love with each other, but their busy lives — including two rambunctious gradeschoolers — have left them just plain physically exhausted. So they decide to video themselves running through all the positions in The Joy of Sex. It works: they have a wonderful night. But a mishap with the Cloud and some iPads that they had given away as gifts — to family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances — sees the file accidentally distributed to all those other devices. So now they have to get them back before anyone watches their little home movie.

Color me absolutely astonished that a concept apparently fully charged for shaming and juvenile embarrassment over perfectly ordinary human behavior — and between a happily married couple, no less — ends up being as genuinely sweet and as wholly sex-positive as Sex Tape turns out to be. And this is even after some potentially “juicy” opportunities for shaming are set up by the script… like how Annie, who writes a popular mommy blog, worries that the pending sale of her website to a wholesome toy company will be scuttled if she’s seen as less than wholesome herself. I was all ready with a screed about how people seem to forget how mommies become mommies, but happily, I don’t need it. Sex Tape doesn’t ignore the reality of how stupid American culture can be about sex, but it refuses to indulge such snickering immaturity, and uses a few grossout moments not to humiliate people for their normal human sexual peccadilloes but to remind us that, hey, we all do this stuff. I never would have expected anything so humanist, so nice, from a studio comedy about a missing sex tape.

That said, there’s a huge problem here: this comedy simply isn’t funny. The preposterous shenanigans that ensue as Jay and Annie go in search of the iPads are overly strained, as if screenwriters Segel, Nicholas Stoller (Muppets Most Wanted, The Muppets), and Kate Angelo (The Back-up Plan) suddenly realized, as the would-be comedic action finally gets going, that there’s actually nothing humorous here now that they’ve eliminated the usual Hollywood comedy route of humiliation (not that that would have been funny either, of course). Worse than that is the enormous plot hole that is addressed late in the film in a such a way as to suggest, again, that the existence of the hole hadn’t occurred to the writers until well into their project — and the way they attempt to paper over it just tosses the entire movie into complete irrelevance. The story simply shouldn’t have been a story at all… and that’s something to be ashamed about.

The movie’s attitudes are wonderful, though. Next time, maybe someone will combine them with some actual comedy.

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Sex Tape (2014)
US/Can release: Jul 18 2014
UK/Ire release: Sep 03 2014

MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong sex references, sex, very strong language, drug use)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • MisterAntrobus

    Too bad it wasn’t released this week in the US. Might have picked up a box office boost from the unfortunate timeliness of its premise.

  • rick

    Did you notice the big plot hole regarding the casting as well?

    According to the movie, they met in college. This means that both husband and wife would be approximately the same age when they met (about 20). However, Cameron Diaz is nine years older than Jason Segel in real life. This means that, when Diaz was 20, Segel would have been 11. Or, if Segel were 20, Diaz would have been a 29-year-old full-time college student (yeah, right).

  • Jurgan

    Eh, there’ve been enough movies with an older man and a younger woman that it’s somewhat commendable to reverse it. It’s not the first time someone has played a different age than they really are; Harrison Ford is only twelve years younger than his “father” Sean Connery.

  • People do go to college in their late 20s. Or perhaps she’s playing younger or he’s playing older. Either way works — they don’t look like there’s a large gap in their ages.

  • LaSargenta

    Diaz would have been a 29-year-old full-time college student (yeah, right).

    *cough* It can happen. Sometimes it takes that long to really figure out what one wants to study and get the money together to do it without going into debt.

  • Tonio Kruger

    People do go to college in their late 20s.

    Been there, done that. And even then, there were people in my class who were even older than me — including some senior citizens. Of course, this tends to happen more often at community colleges but still it does happen.

    What a darn shame they never made a TV show about a college class like that…

  • RogerBW

    I think this is the most positive thing I’ve seen anyone say about this film. (To be fair, most of the comments have been along the lines of “really, the Internet doesn’t work like that.”)

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