A misnomer, and maybe also a crime against humanity, Sex Tape follows in the noble tradition of Zack and Miri Make a Porno - everyday people who decide to document themselves engaged in sex. In the 2008 bomb-com, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks played platonic friends hard up for cash who try going hard-core.
In the totally-different-and-the-screenwriters-have-nothing-to-worry-about-vis-a-vis-a-lawsuit 2014 exploration of these burning issues of our time, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz are Jay and Annie, a couple whose sex life used to be everything. Then they settled down, married, had kids, started keeping to-do lists.
"Is it possible we've forgotten how to have sex?" Annie wonders, as she and Jay, having dispatched their two tykes to Mom's for the night, try without success to get it on - on the kitchen floor, on the living room couch. It's not working.
Then the lightbulb - and the Apple product placement - goes off: What if they "make a porn" (for their private edification, of course)? And so, stripping down (beneath a framed Bob Dylan poster - very distracting), they do just that. It's a marathon.
The next day, thanks to a technically dubious but plot-essential twist, all the folks who got gifts of iPads from Jay - friends, coworkers, the mailman - are treated to Jay and Annie's digital video interpretation of that 1970s classic The Joy of Sex.
Blame it on an app, blame it on "the cloud."
And blame it on Jake Kasdan, who directed Sex Tape, and Segel, Nicholas Stoller, and Kate Angelo, who coscripted. At best, the film has three genuinely funny bits. One features Jay and Annie's preschool daughter querying from the back seat of the family car why life seems so dull and routine.
Diaz, always game for a classy love story (The Other Woman, What Happens in Vegas), literally throws herself into the role. Segel, considerably less toned than she, likewise fearlessly bares all. Yes, both stars expose their butts - it's a breakthrough moment in Hollywood gender equality.
Most of Sex Tape follows Jay and Annie's frantic and ostensibly comic efforts to retrieve the iPads and erase the three-hour upload. Annie, whose blog about modern-day motherhood is thisclose to being acquired by a big toy company, is especially concerned that its straight-arrow CEO - a bespectacled Rob Lowe (no stranger to errant sex tapes, he) - doesn't push play on the iPad she's gifted him.
Which is why Jay and Annie are knocking on his front door in the middle of the night. Turns out Lowe's Hank is a closet metalhead and coke fiend whose wife and children are away. So while Jay goes off to "use the bathroom" (furiously scouring the manse for that iPad), Annie has no choice but to share a few lines with Hank. Talk about family values.
An uncredited Jack Black, sporting a beard and a look of Orson Welles-ian bemusement, shows up as a porn-biz bigwig whose dialogue consists mostly of a litany of X-rated websites and a slew of exceedingly colorfully named URLs.
Yes, the folks behind Sex Tape did their homework. They just forgot the laughs.
Sex Tape ** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Jake Kasdan.
With Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Rob Lowe. Distributed by Sony Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Parent's guide: R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, adult themes).
Playing at: area theaters.