by Patrick Bromley
Just a few years ago, making a raunchy R-rated comedy was something of a risk. The genre had gone out of fashion for a long time, only resurfacing with the success of Judd Apatow's empire and The Hangover series. And while PG-13 is still king at the box office, a string of R-rated comedies have proven the genre to be economically viable. It's still never a sure thing, though, and the rating can close as many doors or turn as many audiences off as it can attract them. For every Superbad, there is The Sitter; for every Ted, a Million Days to Die in the West.
All of this is to say that there are things about Sex Tape that seem risky. Having two big Hollywood stars play characters who film themselves fucking and subject themselves to total humiliation is a risk. Both stars get naked on camera. Once upon a time, we might be praising those involved with the movie for being brave and (literally) putting it all out there. But because R-rated comedies have become the norm -- a few have grossed over $100 million dollars this year alone -- a proposition like Sex Tape is less a risk and more of a calculation. Coupled with the fact that the movie takes every opportunity to back away from actually dealing with sex and you've got something named and packaged to sound edgy but which succeeds at being as mushy and bland as any Adam Sandler movie.
Everyone involved with Sex Tape seems so embarrassed. None of them more than me.
Jay is supposed to erase the video immediately, but he doesn't (in the movie's only believable moment, a character decides to hang on to the video of himself having sex with Cameron Diaz) and then the video is uploaded to THE CLOUD and everyone who has received a FREE iPAD from Jay now has access to the video! The movie tries to explain how this happens. It's stupid, but at least they try.
So what are Jay and Annie to do? Freak out and run around all night trying to get back ALL THOSE iPADS! Sometimes, that means doing lines of coke with Rob Lowe. Sometimes it means punching a dog! Sometimes (most of the time) it means standing around arguing like assholes.
Neighbors). Sex Tape isn't really interested in being either of those movies -- not when it can be a movie about wacky misunderstandings and running away from dogs and smashing into things and having sitcom conversations about sitcom problems in sitcom relationships. This is a movie that dares to reach for the middle and comes up pitifully short.
Sex Tape is one of the most sloppily constructed Hollywood movies in years -- badly edited, patched together with clumsy ADR, shot with the same flat, overly-lit approach that plagues most contemporary comedies. Entire scenes and subplots appear to be cut out. Dialogue was clearly changed in post-production, either to artificially advance the plot, bluntly state the "themes" (there are no themes) or try to create a laugh where there isn't one. That's surprising considering the film was directed by Jake Kasdan, who once made the great Zero Effect (one of my favorite movies of the '90s) and has now made a movie that looks exactly like it was directed by one of the hacks that make Adam Sandler comedies. I remarked at the start of summer that Sandler's Blended was one of the worst-made studio movies I'd seen in a long time. Sex Tape gives it a run for its shitty, incompetent money.
Leading up to the film's release (and subsequent tanking at the box office, having opened in fourth place and earned only $15 million in its first weekend), Cameron Diaz took the majority of the blowback for her participation. I get that she's an actress that rubs a lot of people the wrong way and that she tends to make a lot of bad movies these days, but the tenor of the criticism was especially off-putting -- it basically came down to "She's older (41) than Jason Segel (34)," which then became "She's too old to want to fuck." I don't remember the same number of hilarious jokes being tweeted when an older actor was cast opposite a younger actress in EVERY OTHER MOVIE EVER MADE. There's even another couple in Sex Tape played by Rob Corddry (43) and Ellie Kemper (34). I wonder how many jokes will be made about that on Twitter? Probably none, because that sort of thing is accepted as commonplace in movies. Also because no one is seeing Sex Tape.
Jake Kasdan previously collaborated with both Diaz and Segel in Bad Teacher, a movie that has a reputation for being one of the "bad" movies to cash in on the R-rated comedy craze. As a fan of Bad Teacher, I take issue with that. It's a movie with a couple of good characters to which it really commits. It has funny performances, good jokes and a point of view. Sex Tape has none of these things.
When Adam Sandler makes a movie as incompetent and unfunny as Sex Tape, there's nothing surprising about it. This group should have known better.