Sex Tape is mildly amusing. The main stars, Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, pretty much guarantee that, thanks to their willingness to help each other look stupid, and a supporting cast, including Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper and Rob Lowe, also helps to at least supply a few chuckles. Unfortunately, the risque plot and set-pieces provide more groans than chuckles, especially when you realise that this is the kid of comedy that thinks it's being fun AND rude, yet seems designed to provoke titters and/or blushes purely from the middle-aged and middle-class. If you have any doubt about that, please pay careful attention whenever you see a clip from the sex tape of the title.
That's the whole plot, by the way. Segel and Diaz decide to spice up their sex life with a bit of recording shenanigans, which proves disastrous when Segel synchs their escapade with a number of iPads that he's giving away as gifts. Yes, these people give away iPads as gifts, even throwing one to the mailman. Segel doesn't realise his major mistake until he receives a cryptic text, and then it's a race to retrieve the iPads and wipe the video from them all. They enlist the help of their friends - Corddry and Kemper - and head off into a long, dark night of the soul.
Written by Segel, Nicholas Stoller and Kate Angelo, Sex Tape could have been a great comedy. The premise is simple, yet effective, and the potential for the big laughs is easy to see. Yet it does nothing to get anywhere near that potential. Instead, it just meanders around, refusing to push things towards any area that may actually, god forbid, offend anyone. This is shocking stuff for those who, to use a musical equivalent, think the Scissor Sisters are the height of melodic anarchy.
Jake Kasdan is happy to direct in the same, safe manner. Everyone seems to be having a good time, or at least all seem pleased with themselves, and he doesn't do anything to interrupt that vibe. Do I sound like this is a pet peeve of mine? Well, that's because it is. Not because there's anything inherently wrong with the actual content here, but because it's all been tweaked and polished to remove it that touch too far from what it could have been, all the while allowing the stars to mug their way through the whole thing as if they're helping to veritably push at the boundaries of common decency and good taste.
Segel and Diaz are decent enough in the lead roles, although both have been better in at least a dozen movies I could think of, just off the top of my head. Corddry and Kemper do better, perhaps due to the fact that their scenes mean they don't really have to pretend to be involved in something edgy and sexy, and Rob Lowe is quite funny as a straight-laced guy who really likes to let his hair down when he can. Jack Black appears for a scene or two, and is enjoyable enough in a standard Jack Black turn, and a young man named Harrison Holzer gets to play an amusing irritant.
All in all, this has too few laughs, too few risque moments, and absolutely no surprises. And that's just not good enough for a film entitled Sex Tape.