Sex Tape is a comedy with a great deal of potential. It looks for laughs by blending romantic-comedy themes and R-rated hijinks, along with a splash of the weird technology-filled world we live in. Director Jake Kasdan assembled a talented group of familiar and funny actors to fill out the cast, and, to their credit, they successfully elicit a few laughs on their own merit. What the film can’t overcome, however, is a broken approach to its own plot that, at the end, comes across as small, uneven, and, at times, lazy.
The film reunites Bad Teacher stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as Annie and Jay, a married couple with children who have been together for years. They've recently discovered a serious problem with their sex lives: they’re not doing it anymore. Deciding to put together a special night with the kids out of the house, the couple tries and manufacture a night of passion that starts off terribly – until they start drinking and come up with the idea of taping themselves performing every position in the book “The Joy of Sex.” After a three hour marathon, they go to bed happy... but fail to notice the video has upload to a digital cloud.
Discovering this serious mistake the next day after receiving a series of mysterious texts about the video, Jay and Annie quickly begin to race around trying to find a way to delete the sex tape from a bunch of iPads that Jay got from work and gave out to friends, family and acquaintances.
Sex Tape opens the door for a wild comedic adventure filled with all kinds of strange and funny confrontations between Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, and a series of random iPad owners. It just never walks through that door. Seemingly afraid of overly-committing to the initially established plot, the film abandons its central idea halfway through the story in favor of a much weaker, less interesting development that I won’t spoil here. In addition to failing to play out the plot set-up (Annie and Jay actually sit down to list the targeted iPad owners, with extra emphasis put on the mailman who never makes a significant appearance), it also has the effect of making the movie feel oddly small.
Audiences with a good grasp of computers and cloud technology may wind up taking a few plot issues with Sex Tape, given that its central problem is actually a rather easy fix. While some leeway can be given to the film in this regard just because it’s a comedy, it does create a problematic consistency issue in the lead characters. Both Annie and Jay come across as smart, well-put-together people. She is about to close the sale of her mommy blog to a larger company, and he proves to have a good grasp on operating a particular music app that allows him to build and share playlists. But there are multiple instances where their behavior is much less about character and more about driving the story forward. These are all small problems that could have been handled in thousands of different and comedic ways (like a scene where they at least try to delete the file). Instead, they are largely ignored and build up to taint the movie.
Broken as the approach is, Sex Tape isn’t a comedy you’ll sit through stone-faced, as there are a handful of funny scenes and lines, a great deal of which can be credited to a cast of legitimately talented people. As they did in Bad Teacher, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz make for a funny comedic duo in the movie, and play off each other well with their own personal styles and physicality. Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper, who play friends of Annie and Jay’s who join them in the sex tape hunt, steal each scene they’re in with great improv rhythm together – and it’s seriously unfortunate when they get all but completely written out of the script in the second half of the story. It’s not a movie that will make you cry laughing, but there are a few legitimate chuckles to be had.
If you were to go back into the development of Sex Tape and shuffle just a few things around, you could come back with a markedly improved result, as all of the right pieces really are at play in the movie. Unfortunately, the film that will be coming to theaters this weekend is largely a mess.