As the Apatow crew approaches REAL adulthood- sailing past the heady days of child-like freedom and adult-like access to beer- they’ve all branched off into their own style. Rogen has cemented his role as the go-to-guy for doing goofy buddy comedies (see the upcoming The Interview, This Is The End, Pineapple Express, what have you). Apatow himself has started to branch off into finding new talents and telling new stories. And Jason Segel has slowly tracked his own maturation across the silver screen, with his three non-Muppet films serving like a perfect timeline for the post-adolescent male: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (getting over your first love), The Five Year Engagement (thinking about a lifetime with someone) and Sex Tape (dealing with a lifetime together).
What all these movies have in common, aside from their tall writer, is that the female characters are well-written and fleshed out, evidence that Segel (in contrast to Rogen, who’s definitely still living in his frat pack) is as interested in the lady side of his equation as the fella. Further evidence? Sex Tape is based on an idea by and co-written by Kate Angelo.
However, the major thing that FYE and FSM have in common that Sex Tape is missing is chemistry. Sometimes romantic comedies fall flat because one or both of the parties is underwritten; that’s not Sex Tape’s problem. But it misfires mostly due to the miscasting of Cameron Diaz. In purely shallow terms, Diaz doesn’t look like a woman who put her dreams on hold to be a mother to two, and the movie doesn’t even try to play this stereotype. Although written well, her portrayal and Diaz’s patented fun loving exuberance never quite gel.
On top of that, Segel and Diaz have little to no chemistry. I believe these two people would hook up for a while (they’re hot!), but I don’t believe they’d be so overcome with love and lust for each other that they’d wildly reorganize their life.
What normally makes me fall head over heels for Jason Segel’s movies is the sense of reality that underscores the shenanigans. Despite the arrow shooting, beard growing, wedding-delaying absurdity of The Five Year Engagement, the movie remained committed to the reality of Emily Blunt and Jason Segel’s relationship together. Forgetting Sarah Marshall remains one of my favorite movies because it not only invests in Segel’s fledgling relationship with Mila Kunis, but also the reality of his previous relationship with Kristen Bell. Unfortunately, I never really felt that Diaz and Segel were some epic love story that I wanted desperately to succeed. This meant that it was just all shenanigans.
Most of which were funny! I laughed a lot watching Sex Tape. It had inventive sex jokes, a hilarious sequence in which Diaz does cocaine with Rob Lowe, and Jason Segel getting hurt a lot. These are all things I like. But I didn’t love it, because I didn’t believe it. I could almost feel some movie executive, bummed by the poor box office performance of FYE and the similarly themed This Is 40, saying “MORE SHENANIGANS!” and forcing them to cut out 20 minutes of character building.
In the end, Sex Tape is a serviceable mid-summer comedy that pales in comparison to similarly funny movies AND similarly moving movies. But it does feature a lot of shots of mostly-naked Jason Segel and a butt that I am 90% sure does not belong to Cameron Diaz*.
*I read an article after writing this that claims that’s actually Diaz’s butt. I still don’t really believe, not because I don’t believe Diaz’s butt looks that good, but mostly because those shots are very carefully constructed. But if it is her butt, I apologize. To her butt**.
** This is officially the most times I’ve ever used the word butt in one review. HUZZAH!