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Sex Tape: Familiar comforts, but no thrills

When Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz play the married couple, it’s Diaz who does the heavy lifting.

Claire Folger/Sony Pictures

2 out of 4 stars

Written by
Kate Angelo, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
Directed by
Jake Kasdan
Starring
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

As you sit in the theatre watching Sex Tape, many questions will likely announce themselves: Is the technological snafu on which the plot hinges even possible? Who gives out free iPads to their mailman? And, is this fight between Jason Segel and the German shepherd ever going to end? Even with all of these valid queries though, the most important question is one that should be answered before setting foot in the theatre, and it is this: How badly do you want to see Cameron Diaz's butt? If your answer is so very badly, or even pretty darn bad, then by all means, buy a ticket. This is, after all, the first time in a 20-year film career that Diaz has ever shown her naked backside on camera. And, really, Sex Tape isn't so bad. Like a biweekly bonk session of the marital missionary variety, there are certain familiar comforts – its leading lady's irrepressible magnetism, for one, plus some reigning comedy "cool kids" (Rob Corddry from The Daily Show and Ellie Kemper from The Office) in supporting roles, and Rob Lowe as a compelling mega-weirdo. (The too-pretty-for-his-own-good eighties hunk has found a recent career renaissance playing offbeat creeps. His Sex Tape character – a drug-sniffing, toy-company exec who has himself painted into scenes from Disney movies – is no exception).

The foreplay is the best part here, told in a series of flashbacks over the first 30 minutes. Annie and Jay (Diaz and Segel) met as students and spent the majority of their college years getting it on. "Oh the boners," Annie writes on her plot-facilitating mommy blog, recalling the days when her husband's privates could detect her presence in a room even before he could. After a few years of endless friskiness they get married, have babies and vow to maintain their super supped-up libidos.

And then life happens, kids arrive and the whole hump-forever agenda gets lost in the daily grind. The desire to spice up their relationship leads to the making of the sex tape, which is actually a sex MP4 filmed on Jay's newest iPad. For some reason having to do with his job, he is constantly getting new iPads and giving the old ones to friends, parents, neighbours and, yes, the mailman – all people who are now privy to what was supposed to be a private DIY porno. Doh! The movie's 14A rating is inevitable given the many scenes where we see limbs, loins and what looks like actual coitus, but aside from a few limp sex jokes (wanh-wanh) the script is disappointingly guarded –downright family-friendly by the end.

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Diaz does all of the heavy lifting – a scene where Annie snorts coke with Rob Lowe's character shows off her comedic capabilities (can someone find this woman an amazing project?), and she certainly deserves credit for committing to the role's kama sutra-level physical requirements. Segel is more culpable, partly because his performance feels lazy, but largely because he co-wrote the script. It's too bad since the guy can do lovable horndog everydude in his sleep, as seen on nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother. He can also write funny, as seen in the sharp, original and totally hilarious Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). In Sex Tape, he (along with co-writers Kate Angelo and Nicholas Stoller) can't figure out how to blend warm and fuzzy with weird and raunchy, as has been done so expertly in Marshall and the better Judd Apatow movies. Attempts to delve deeper into the challenges of marital relationships prove equally flaccid, and yes, that's yet another dose of middling sex humour. If you want to see Cameron Diaz's rear, you'd better get used to it.

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