'Sex Tape' is actually not terrible

Matt Pais movie review: 'Sex Tape'

'Sex Tape'

'Sex Tape' (Claire Folger / / July 16, 2014)

**1/2 (out of four)

Redemption won’t come easily after you write something as ghastly as “The Back-Up Plan.” (Don’t remember that one? It starred Jennifer Lopez and isn’t “Out of Sight.” Enough said.) Surprisingly, scribe Kate Angelo takes a step away from the dumpster with “Sex Tape,” which also credits star Jason Segel and his frequent collaborator Nicholas Stoller (“The Muppets”) as writers. Maybe all the good jokes came from them; what matters is that the laughs are there.

The plot of “Sex Tape” doesn’t really need a summary, a benefit of calling your movie “Sex Tape.” Here’s one anyway: It’s about Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Segel), the people who made said home movie—a three-hour epic that their pal Robby (Rob Corddry) says is as long as “Lincoln”—and how unintentionally posting it to the cloud nearly becomes social and professional suicide. The couple experiment with their iPad’s advanced new camera to at least temporarily return them to their younger days when sex was wild and abundant, and kids didn’t exist yet. The spouses face what many surely go through in real life and what sometimes feels like every couple in every movie experiences. This is not a new problem (the film at times feels like “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” meets “Date Night”), and you don’t go into “Sex Tape” expecting wisdom about relationships.

Fortunately, the energetic, mostly painless movie frankly embraces sex (“The Girl Next Door” did that well too) and not as something that only Jay misses. Better directed than Jake Kasdan’s previous collaboration with these stars (“Bad Teacher”), “Sex Tape” is sexy and funny. Diaz gives Annie multi-faceted personality, and Segel’s goofiness proves ideal for lines like, “Here comes the penis ... That’s going to be the name of my album.”

The movie also can’t decide whether to treat the situation in a real way or in over-the-top, forced-comedic fashion. The subplot about Annie’s career as a mommy blogger succeeds only in being simultaneously absurd and idiotic. At no point is a young girl putting her finger in her butt a productive inclusion in a screenplay.

Still, you regret “Sex Tape” less than you thought you would. It understands what happens when nakedness stops being sexual, and why sex on the kitchen floor might be uncomfortable. Not just because the floor is hard, but because Annie can see the to-do list.

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

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