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Film review: ‘Sex Tape’ fails at raunch and comedy

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Segal and Diaz, before the misery begins.

Two stars

Sex Tape Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry. Directed by Jake Kasdan. Rated R. Opens Friday.

“Nobody understands the cloud!” barks Jay (Jason Segel) as he and his wife, Annie (Cameron Diaz), struggle to determine the whereabouts of the porn video they’ve just made. Certainly Sex Tape doesn’t. (Judging from the title, it doesn’t even know what medium people use to record things nowadays.)

There’s a potentially uproarious and insightful movie to be made about the modern era’s war against privacy, but it would require actually dealing with mortification and consequences—both of which are terrific subjects for comedy. Sex Tape, on the other hand, merely deploys the threat of exposure, sending its bland characters on a lackluster nocturnal odyssey to retrieve what amounts to a smutty MacGuffin.

Once upon a time—as we learn from flashbacks narrated by Annie, a celebrated “mommy blogger”—Jay and Annie did nothing but bone. Age, work and kids have taken a collective toll on their libidos, however, and it’s only when Annie suggests making a porno (exclusively for their own enjoyment) that they rediscover their lost carnal passion for each other. Trouble is, instead of erasing the footage, as he’d intended to do, Jay somehow activates a newfangled syncing app that deposits their acrobatics onto multiple iPads that Jay had given away as gifts to family and friends over the years. That makes no technical sense whatsoever (and is ultimately revealed to be irrelevant), but Jay and Annie nonetheless head out into the night to try to remove the file from everyone’s devices before they have a chance to see it.

Best described as pseudo-raunchy, Sex Tape could really be about almost anything—it’s like an extended version of the old sitcom gag in which someone has to erase an embarrassing answering-machine message. Jay and Annie spend an eternity at the house of an ostensibly square businessman (Rob Lowe, gamely poking fun at his own notorious adventure with amateur pornography) who gets freaky behind closed doors, and the movie’s engine sputters and stalls; the poverty of imagination runs so deep that much of this sequence is devoted to Jay’s efforts to escape an attack dog, as if he were Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

If not for some amusing lasciviousness from Ellie Kemper and Rob Corddry, as friends who are way too curious about the contents of the video, it’d be easy to forget the movie’s premise entirely. A comedy with guts would have taken that discomfiting idea and run with it.

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