EXPECTATIONS: This film appears to be built out of all the things I hate; post-Apatow sex comedies, Jason Segel, gratuitous product placement, suburban angst, Cameron Diaz. Everything will hurt and all will be sad.
REALITY: From the moment that Annie (Cameron Diaz) reveals that she is a mommy blogger and her husband, Jay (Jason Segel), is a radio DJ who specializes in putting music on Apple products because they're reliable and they have these great apps where he can share his awesome playlists (may contain Sonic Youth, Pink Floyd, Fleet Foxes and N.W.A, but only enough to show that he had some black friends in college), I wanted to hate these people. But as the movie progressed, I found that I not only didn't hate them, I almost kind of liked them.
He doesn't get it, Cameron. Just say "Wink wink."
Married with two kids, Annie and Jay, who used to bone like rabbits, find themselves in a sex rut. After Annie gets an offer on her mommy blog from Piper Bros. Toys, lead by the simultaneously appealing and creepy Hank (Rob Lowe), they plan to celebrate with a night of doing it. After a few false starts, the two decide to make a sex tape on Jay's new iPad, which boasts a great camera and higher resolution. Though asked to, Jay doesn't delete the video, and now, thanks to The Cloud and an awesome new app on the lighter, longer-battery-life iPads he gives away to friends and family, everyone can see their sex tape, even though I can't think of anyone who would want to. The two embark on a quest to retrieve the iPads, which involves beating up a dog, doing some cocaine and arguing a lot over the fact that Jay didn't delete the video from his thinner, more durable iPad.
It's an almost-decent premise that falls flat at every turn. Every story thread - including a mysterious blackmailer, a late-night B&E at YouPorn's headquarters, and mild-mannered Hank's great love of Slayer and secret tattoos - is pulled up short and solved almost instantaneously, giving the film an irritatingly episodic feel. Plot threads are started and abandoned at will. There are several attempts made at teaching the characters/audience a lesson - "remember who you are," "remember why you love each other," "don't make sex tapes" - but these gift-book life affirmations are more annoying than charming. Every time the movie gets something good going, such as the sequence where Annie and Hank discuss how they miss their former badass selves, the film worries that it's getting too interesting or thoughtful and quickly shoehorns in some scenes of Jay beating up a dog.
Uncomplicated suburban bliss. Thanks, Apple!But what this movie has going for it in spades is the chemistry between the leads. When they aren't pointlessly bickering (WE GET IT, HE FORGOT TO DELETE THE VIDEO), Segel and Diaz actually give a surprisingly believable performance as a married couple who, despite their frustrations with growing older, still genuinely love each other. It lacks the petty meanness that generally hallmarks these types of films; Annie isn't a shrewish harpy and Jay isn't a simpering manchild. In this, Sex Tape succeeds where very few movies have of late: it's a movie for actual grown-ups. Remember those? The kind of movies Mom and Dad would put on after you finished watching The Lion King and sent you to bed? Sex Tape is nowhere near as good, but it's in the tradition of real grown-up movies like True Lies. The intended audience for Sex Tape isn't bored housewives dragging their eye-rolling husbands to a generic rom-com, or stunted adolescents trying to make the pathetic case that Mark Wahlberg is eye candy so they can gawk at supple lady-flesh and CGI toys. There is no fantasy to be had here. The sex isn't gauzy or soft-focused. It occasionally gets endearingly weird, and the repeated shots of Jason Segel's naked ass will, frankly, haunt me until the end of my days. But it's a date movie for married couples, and in my mind, that's a noble pursuit.
Honestly, the least believable part of this movie is that Annie packs her kid a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. In the manicured, suburban hellscape Annie and Jay occupy, where kids get full-scale graduations for fifth grade (complete with video yearbooks made on the remarkably versatile Apple MacBook Pro!), no kid would be legally allowed anywhere within 100 feet of actual peanut butter. I can only assume it was on gluten-free bread, so I guess that's acceptable.
Sex Tape could have been a lot of things - it could have been a crass, Apatow-ian quotefest where Diaz gets to fart a lot and fall down. It could have been a depressing suburban drama about trying to revive a crumbling marriage. But not every film has to be vulgar or mean or miserable. And while it's sanitized and white-bread and never really gets Annie and Jay into any sort of danger, that's all part of its bizarre charm. And frankly, that charm is all it has going for it.
|The Amazing Versatility of Apple Products||9/10|
|Not Being Judd Apatow||8/10|
|Peanut Butter||Don't Even Say It.|
MINORITY REPORT: I'm writing this minority report while simultaneously listening to Feist's "1234" and playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out on my iPad with Retina display, which retails for $399 for the 16 GB, but I highly suggest you spring for the 64 GB version with Wi-Fi and 4G access beacuse that's more games, more apps, more music, more selfies, more access, more sex tape, more you! - Sean "Keanu Grieves" Hanson
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