Do you remember Kevin Smith’s Zack & Miri Make A Porno? Yeah, me neither – and I saw it. One thing I do remember, though, was the acute disappointment that it decided to go down the schlocky, friendly slapstick route. I remember saying on our old podcast that it should have been retitled “Zack & Miri Make A Sex Tape” and taken an altogether more serious tone. Doing this would have accentuated the awkward moments, which would have been ripe for comedy.
Here, we have a director not a bazillion miles away from Smith; Jake Kasdan (of Juno fame) directs this time, with Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz – two very capable performers of comedy – as a couple who, once they get married and have kids, stop having instant, spontaneous and raucous sexual encounters. They succumb to a life of routine mediocrity; she’s a successful “mommy” blogger, and he’s… something else. They get drunk one night while the kids are on a sleepover and decide to make a sex tape on an iPad. He doesn’t delete it, and has a penchant for giving iPads as a gift. Guess what happens next? Yep, some recipient of said tape starts sending Segel threatening messages saying that the tape will go viral. Diaz and Segel then enlist their best friends to go on a wild goose chase to track down everyone who might have received the iPad.
See, this the problem; the conceit and the set up. I was really hoping that the said three hour sex fest was going to make it online. I was curious to see some extremely wrought and cringe-inducing drama turning into comedic moments. For the second time of trying, the yanks screw it up again.
What we get is a series of elongated, yet fairly charming, set pieces. This mostly involves an extended farce-lite sequence involving Rob Lowe as a mega rich CEO as Diaz and Segel charm their way into his house. She ends up doing cocaine as he searches the house and wrestles Lowe’s violent dog. In any other movie, for any other narrative, this may have been a blast. Here, it nestles itself comfortably into a different movie; around the half way mark the writers seem disinterested in the tape and more on the relationship. We groan at the more contrived set ups.
I was on board with the first two thirds of the movie. There’s no denying Diaz and Segel have the requisite charm to carry the movie along. We see her naked behind twice. Rob Corddry turns up as the weirdo best friend.
What’s not to like?
The third act, that’s what. I can suspend disbelief only so far, but the final twenty minutes feature a cameo by a very well-known funny man playing the chief of an extremely well-known porn site. The film at this point sticks two fingers down its own throat and vomits whatever creativity or wit and wisdom it once had right down its chest. I cannot swallow (as it were) this final swerve into creative bankruptcy – more so, I can’t fathom the actual message contained therein. Do you really mean to tell me that someone like that would care that much, based on the oldest of contrivances that his squeeze can influence his decision? I realise this means little to you, dear reader; but one day, perhaps soon, you may catch Sex Tape and remember what I’ve written in this paragraph, if nothing else. The couple’s kids are there to witness the entire exchange for the most part, which makes it even more arduous and contemptible.
The filmmakers ought to have known better. Make a stupid Zack & Miri lightweight entertainment – or, go hog wild. Sitting in the middle with all the R-rated language and none of the determination to really wring the concept dry just sits uneasy.
It’s such a shame because, for a while there, this could have been a relatively engaging comedy drama. I expect better from all involved, not least Kasdan. Sex Tape will go down in my memory as the movie that showed Kasdan will sell out – and work with a cast and crew who didn’t pause for two seconds and question this dumb conclusion. My guess? They were probably too busy thinking about which shots that week will make the red band trailer, and what the poster may look like.
I fear it may be too late for Diaz, Segel and Kasdan – the distributors will release this embarrassment into the cinemas soon, and none of them will be able to take it down, or remove it from their resume.