There's a sequence early on in "Sex Tape" during which the married couple played by Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel try repeatedly to rekindle their sexual flame. Time after time, they almost get "there," but something keeps frustrating their enjoyment. That's a little like the experience of watching "Sex Tape," a sometimes amusing R-rated comedy that never quite hits the spot.
Diaz's Annie, owner of the "Who's Your Mommy?" blog, fondly recalls the days when she and her husband, Jay (Segel), were as frisky as jackrabbits. Now that they're married with children (Sebastian Hedges Thomas and Giselle Eisenberg), Annie and Jay are too tired and over-scheduled to have sex more than once in a blue moon. But when a toy and game company for some reason decides to buy Annie's blog, Annie knows how she wants to celebrate: drop the kids at mom's and get down with Jay.
When the pair fail to get their groove back, an idea occurs to Annie: they could film themselves. That's sexy, right? And so they do, but Jay who works in radio -- allows his complicated syncing app, and practice of giving away used iPads to send the sex tape into the cloud where friends and family (and the mailman) holding his old iPads can see Annie and Jay's homemade porn. Thus begins a quest to find and erase all copies of the sex tape.
Aside from what no doubt qualify as the oddest Hollywood product placements in history (the book "The Joy of Sex," the YouPorn website, and Apple, as a vehicle for porn), "Sex Tape" doesn't go to many surprising places. Oddly, Annie and Jay's frantic journey into the night has basically one stop, after a relatively easy negotiation with friends Robby (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper): to the home of the CEO (Rob Lowe) who hasn't yet signed on the dotted line to buy Annie's blog. Lowe gamely plays along with a bit of casting that is itself a joke (the actor got into hot water for his own sex tape in 1988), and the extended scene wrings some chuckles out of the randomness of the CEO's pastimes (not so many yuks from Jay's showdown with an attack dog).
The oddly paced narrative eventually settles on another necessary journey into the night, and the unconvincing decision to break and enter (with kids in tow). Laughs fail to develop in this sequence (despite a cameo by an unbilled comedy star) or in the long-telegraphed setpiece of a fourth-grade graduation ceremony. The longstanding team of Segel and Nicholas Stoller rewrote Kate Angelo's screenplay, but none of the three writers brings much to the game in plotting, characterization, or comic invention. And in the perhaps-tied hands of director Jake Kasdan (who's done better work elsewhere), it's all rather bland in spite of the foulmouthed language and teasing fleshiness of the stars.
Ironically, "Sex Tape" works best as a rather sweet look at a loving couple trying to keep its sex life active; that's a theme that'll resonate strongly with audience members who have left the kids home with a sitter. The opening montage sequence establishing the couple's hot-to-cold history probably delivers the film's biggest laughs; it's just too bad that "Sex Tape" has the same problem as its protagonists.
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use. One hour, 34 minutes.