There are things I simply can’t believe. Sasquatch claims and unicorn sightings being a couple of them. Well, there’s now a new entry: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s involvement with Sex Tape’s screenplay.
These two are above plodding juvenilia like this. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement and The Muppets are proof of where they can set the bar with smart comedic writing. If these two are going to pen a project close to a romantic comedy, it’s going to resemble at least two of those clever flicks.
This leads me to believe they were hired to punch-up Kate Angelo’s flabby script about a married couple who spice up their sex lives by shooting an amateur porno. If so, their talents could not juice up Sex Tape’s nonstarter jokes. They might’ve been responsible for conceptualizing the many improvisational stretches in Sex Tape, but the filmmaker at the helm elongates and smothers these natural moments.
That filmmaker is Jake Kasdan, who is generally hit-or-miss with his filmography which includes the spot-on spoof Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story and the over-calculated License to Wed. However, Sex Tape was hopeful since the filmmaker had directed Segel and Cameron Diaz before in Bad Teacher. Bad Teacher was passable with a few hearty laughs, but more notably, Segel and Diaz worked as an on-screen pair. They came across as good buddies with a fetching repitore.
In Sex Tape, Segel and Diaz come across more as actors who are comfortable with their bodies than actors playing characters. Their camaraderie doesn’t work as well as it did previously because they’re much more interested in themselves than making any legit chemistry work. They only show their comfortability through their skin-on-skin acting during the indulgent sex scenes the audience endures.
Plain and simple, the film is just not funny. Kasdan and company are out to lunch when it comes to setting up humourous situations. I know humour is subjective, but this is pushing it. Sex Tape is a movie that depends on wackiness and go-for-broke attitudes. Kasdan, unfortunately, questions the pacing and drags out each punchline and awkward eccentricity. The banter stalls for time – seemingly – to prepare for a bigger payoff, but it never arrives. The material just keeps on driving along a colourless road as shameless promotion for the iPads the porno has been shared to steamrolls on through.
Segel and Diaz can have great screen presences and can be very talented given everything else is up to par. The same can be said about other talented performers who have been roped into this dead end. The cast includes Rob Corddry, Rob Lowe, and Ellie Kemper – all of whom come up short under Kasdan’s lazy direction and Angelo’s aimless story.
Everyone in the audience is bored and tired when the infamous sex tape is finally revealed to us. It’s not as graphic as we expect although naturalist Segel shows us too much, but the montage is every bit as long-winded and excruciatingly forced as we predicted. The film is also bookended by false sentimentality about how important family is. The movie confuses our desires. What we want is a punchline at the end of a scene where disgusting and obscene porn titles get rattled off ad nausea by an unexpected cameo. What we get is unsupported schmaltz, halfhearted sleaziness.
There’s a scene in Sex Tape that features Diaz and Segel frustratingly waiting for an erection to happen. What a fitting metaphor for this terrible comedy.