From the outset, Sex Tape has a lot going for it. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel both bring a fair amount of comedy street cred to the table, with classics like There's Something About Mary and Forgetting Sarah Marshall on their respective resumes. The movie also boasts a number of high-caliber comic actors in supporting roles, like Kumail Nanjiani, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, and Jack Black. All of these professional funny people -- on top of a hard-R rating for copious swearing, unapologetic raunch, and Rob Lowe doing blow while listening to Slayer -- must add up to comedy gold, right?
Well, sure, Sex Tape has some funny moments and even a few clever ones, but in the end, it isn't a comedian's comedy. Instead, it's mostly just an R-rated rom-com, which is fine if that's all you're looking for. The story is pretty straightforward: Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) are a middle-class couple with two kids and a mortgage and not enough time or energy for the sex life they enjoyed before all of those responsibilities. Annie, now a full-time mom and part-time blogger, wistfully looks back on the single-minded obsession with which they pursued their animal attraction to each other back in the day, banging all over their college campus until she (not unexpectedly) wound up pregnant. These days, the two rarely have enough energy to enact their fantasies after the kids are in bed, and their sex life has been pushed to the back burner so many times that when they finally get an evening alone, they're all weird and out of sync. Where's the spark?
So, of course, they get the bright idea that provides the title for the movie, and decide to spice things up by recording a video of their wild night on Jay's iPad. This does indeed reinvigorate the couple's lust, but through an awkward series of complications too overwrought to explain here, the video is accidentally shared with a bunch of their friends and family; as a result, they end up on a wild journey as they frantically try to keep everyone they know from seeing them do the nasty. The person at the top of their list is Annie's potential new boss (Lowe), the image-conscious head of a toy company who is interested in optioning her blog.
It seems like this premise could get into some creative and maybe even subversive territory, but it mostly sticks to the basics. The couple discuss out loud at one point whether it really should be such a big deal that everyone will know that, yes, they like to get it on, but that's pretty much as far as the film goes in terms of questioning cultural norms surrounding sex (aside from, you know, showing it). That's a slight disappointment, but it's an even bigger letdown that the humor itself isn't more inspired. It's not terrible, but it's just not that smart either. How many comedies do we need to see in which the male lead sneaks around someone's house and gets chased by a dog? Like a lot of the bits in Sex Tape, it's a cheap laugh. Cheap laughs are fine, but don't expect this movie to blow your mind or make you crave a cigarette afterward.