Sex Tape (Sony Pictures Releasing/Columbia Pictures, R)

film sex-tape_smMidway through, the film turns sex-negative rather than -positive, effectively stomping on everything that was making it work in the first place.

 

 

 

 film sex-tape

Any regular reader of my reviews knows that I have a soft spot for a certain type of Hollywood comedy, usually of the crass and dumb but perhaps not slapsticky variety; I particularly like this type of movie if it features one or more alumni from the TV show Freaks & Geeks. The new Jason Segel comedy, Sex Tape, fits this criteria, and gets bonus points for (a) being co-written by Segel and Nicholas Stoller, the team behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and (b) being directed by Jake Kasdan, who directed the pilot episode of F&G (among other things).

And it starts out promising, too. Jay (Segel) and his wife Annie (Cameron Diaz, in the best comedic role she’s had in quite some time) are still happy and in love, but they built their relationship on a foundation of the Hollywood version of kinky sex, with the love and lifetime companionship coming later. Most of the beginning part of the movie explores their sexual relationship as college kids, and when the film catches up with their adult selves they’re mourning the end of their sex lives brought by the birth of their two children, and trying half-heartedly to rekindle it. Specifically, after some good news from Annie and the option to send the kids off to their grandma’s for the night, she and Jay bumble around trying to bring back the spark to their physical relationship, and this eventually leads them to making the titular sex tape.

This all works quite well: It’s reliably funny; it’s nice to see a married couple in the movies that doesn’t constantly bicker and snipe at each other; and the whole thing is refreshingly sex-positive, which it seems like movies rarely are, especially when you consider how many of them use sex as a selling point. But then the tape accidentally gets uploaded into the Cloud, and thereby appears as if by magic on gift iPads Jay had previously given friends and family. The rest of the movie follows the couple as they try to chase down all of the gifted iPads and erase the incriminating tape.

The first half-hour requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but it isn’t hard to do because the movie’s a lot of fun. But once it gets to the part where Jay and Annie start to chase after the leaked tape, the film takes a turn for the stupid. It’s over the top and broad and dumb, and suddenly a lot less believable, despite the fact that it wasn’t terribly believable in the first place. It’s almost as if Kasdan stepped out as director partway through, and Chris Columbus stepped in. Meanwhile, of course, Jay and Annie start bickering and sniping at each other. The film also turns sex-negative, effectively stomping on everything that was making it work in the first place.

It isn’t such a big deal, really, as despite how poor the majority of the movie is, it didn’t really leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, either. The initial sequence puts a lot of goodwill in the film’s account, and all of the crap toward the end doesn’t quite use it up. This is a funnier movie, too, than Bad Teacher was, which also teamed up Kasdan, Segel, and Diaz.

2014 has already been a very good year for movies, but not many of the good films in question have been comedies. So if you’re lusting for a decent choice for brainless laughs, Sex Tape isn’t a bad option. Hopefully, though, we’ll find something along these lines but better in the relatively near future. | Pete Timmermann

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