I’m worried about Jason Segel.
He lost a ton of weight for his role as the husband in “Sex Tape” — maybe he thought no one would believe Cameron Diaz would get between the sheets with him if he weren’t a stick — and he seems miserable. The actor’s comic timing is still in evidence, and thank God for that. This frantic farce about a married couple whose video frolic goes viral would be much less bearable without the topspin Segel imparts to even his silliest dialogue. But he looks hollow-eyed and gaunt, like a man starving himself to prove a point. I want the old, lumpy Jason Segel back. Eat, bubbe, eat.
“Sex Tape” is a cartoonish summer comedy whose best bits are in the trailer but which still squeezes out a few decent cheap laughs, most of them at the expense of married people. It’s directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Kasdan, Kate Angelo, and Nicholas Stoller; the latter wrote and directed the recent “Neighbors,” to which the new movie bears uncanny similarities, sometimes to the point of specific gag set-ups and pay-offs. “Neighbors” was about new parents freaking out because they never have sex. “Sex Tape” is about older parents freaking out because they never have sex. See the difference?
The movie establishes that Jay (Segel) and Annie (Diaz) were hump-bunnies during their courtship and that 12 years and two children later they’ve for all intents and purposes forgotten how. Some of this is pointedly amusing (if reasonably depressing): Jay referencing the last time the two got naked as “after that towel sale at Bed Bath & Beyond,” the contortions necessary to remember how kissing works. “Sex Tape” dances with nervous merriment about a fact of life: Passion fades with familiarity and routine.
But this movie isn’t really about sex, for all the naughty talk and glimpses of rear ends hairy and otherwise. It’s about middle-class, middle-aged anxiety — of not being seen as sexy anymore, as being seen as too sexy by the wrong people, of your naked photos proliferating like kudzu online, of getting old. Desperate to reconnect, Jay and Annie get drunk one night and videotape themselves trying every position in “The Joy of Sex.” Through a twist too complex to go into, the video gets synced to the iPads of everyone they know and is in further danger of going “up into the cloud” — i.e., everywhere.
If the first half of the movie is fairly sharp as these things go, the second half is increasingly, noisily ridiculous, with Diaz working extra hard for her laughs and verging on the shrill. The couple run around trying to collect all the iPads and are soon joined by best friends Robbie (the reliable Rob Corddry) and Tess (the underrated comic actress Ellie Kemper). There’s a long, strange side-trip into the mansion of an Internet mogul played with psycho-nerd cheer by Rob Lowe, of all people, and some unfunny slapstick involving his trained attack dog. Toward the end, a Special Guest Comedian — oh, all right, it’s Jack Black — turns up as an online porn king.
The website his character operates actually exists, and “Sex Tape” gives it enough play that you wonder if money changed hands. That’s nothing next to the shilling the iPad gets, though. Jay praises the device’s pixel counts and when one unit gets tossed out the window and still works, he crows, “Man, the construction on these things is unbelievable.”
What’s unbelievable is that you just paid $12 plus popcorn for an Apple commercial.Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.