July 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Tom Long

Review: Joyless 'Sex Tape' feels more like a sitcom

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel play a married couple who wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts, in the comedy 'Sex Tape.' Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper also star. (CTMG)

“Sex Tape” is a long sitcom episode.

Seriously, the premise could easily fit into the new FX show “Married.” Only there it would likely get some oddball spin and foster some interesting observations on the waning fires of love.

In movie form, it’s just the basis for lots of pratfalls, some great gaps in logic and one of the least sexy films about sex ever made.

The sitcom nature of the film isn’t terribly surprising in that the story comes from Kate Angelo (“Becker,” “Will & Grace”). It’s what they used to call “high concept,” which usually meant witless but easy to understand.

So understand: Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) start out in college as constantly bundling buddies, doing it anywhere, anytime, everywhere, all the time. This leads to marriage, kids and a whole lot less carnal congress.

One night they decide to spice up their lives by shooting a sex tape in which they attempt every configuration outlined in the ’70s manual “The Joy of Sex.” After a joyous evening, Jay promises to erase the tape. Of course, he doesn’t.

And, of course, it gets out. In a move that’s equal parts brazen product placement and delusional Hollywood economics, it turns out that Jay likes to give people his used iPads. Friends, relatives, Annie’s potential new boss (Rob Lowe), even the mailman, he gives them all iPads. Basically, meet Jay and you’ll end up with an iPad.

Anyway, turns out all these iPads are synced up with Jay’s and they all contain the sex tape.

Later in the movie, Jay will be in dire need of $25,000; he doesn’t have that kind of money. But he does have the money to give away iPads at $500 a pop? Sure.

The film then becomes a scavenger hunt with Annie and Jay hunting down all the gift iPads and erasing the tape. Annie is, of course, mad at Jay, but they persevere, making up outrageous lies and basically acting like clowns.

The clowning takes on a bit of energy when the couple visit Annie’s prospective employer, who turns out to be one strange cookie even as Jay is chased around the guy’s mansion by a German Shepherd. Animal lovers may grimace, but it’s all in good fun and Diaz, Segel and Lowe get to flaunt their comic chops.

Still, this is one scene in the center of the movie. Most everything before and after it feels like filler — the naked romping that frames the story, the cheap awww realizations that come at the end, the constant leering in every direction.

Sex is treated first as brainless imperative, then as acrobatic duty, then as desperate consequence — it’s never sexy in any way. And Annie and Jay exist mostly as impulse generators — despite all the flesh on display, there’s very little evidence of blood running beneath their skin.

The fading of passion is certainly valid fodder for both drama and comedy, and the whole sex tape phenomenon has to say something about modern times. But “Sex Tape” squanders its potential on a fairly obvious joke and ends up saying nothing in particular past take care when giving an iPad to Grandma.

'Sex Tape'

GRADE: C

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use

Running time: 94 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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