If you happen to be writing a textbook, and you’re looking to define the so-called “idiot plot,” then Sex Tape is a movie you desperately need to see.
Lots of movies depend on characters doing stupid things to drive the story forward, but few are as intrinsically reliant on technological ignorance as the new sex comedy from director Jake Kasdan, starring Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz as a married couple who spice up their love life by filming a re-enactment of every position in The Joy of Sex. But they make the mistake of recording their sexcapades on an iPad, which uploads the video onto “The Cloud,” which downloads it onto the iPads of everyone they know, which forces our heroes to venture into the night and collect the iPads by any means necessary. It’s a situation that some might consider “wacky.”
That said, if you know anything about The Cloud, you may already see the problem. (And if you don’t, never fear, Sex Tape will eventually explain it to you.) It’s difficult to watch people lose their minds trying to shove a square peg into a round hole, especially when you see that there’s a round hole right next to them. Fortunately for all of us, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz are very likable and funny together, responding to their plight with an amusing mix of terror, furor and shame. Their endearing frustration almost makes it seem believable that they’re overlooking the most obvious solution to their problem.
Another reason to celebrate Segel’s and Diaz’s chemistry is that Sex Tape’s supporting cast is utterly disposable. Funny, granted, but disposable, with each character contributing to only one or two scenes worth of plot before disappearing into the night, possibly coked up or possibly to scheme. Rob Lowe steals his part of the movie as Cameron Diaz’s prospective employer, who has some very unexpected secrets, but Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper come along for the ride for no particular reason, and exit with little ceremony. They are mere pawns in Sex Tape’s game of (naked) chess.
Sex Tape is the latest in a line of Bourgeois Consequence movies, ones in which the affluent heroes act out on a decadent whim and then spend the rest of the movie trying desperately to avoid the consequences. It follows a trail blazed by The Hangover very closely, forcing Segel and Diaz into increasingly dangerous, bizarre situations to prevent everyone they know from watching them have sex. The irony of course is that the actions they take are infinitely more reckless and damaging than the sex tape itself. Oh what a tangled web we so-and-so.
There’s an energy to Sex Tape, and two very amusing lead performances that make this a more than passable comedy. But there’s something holding it back at every turn, as if the film is afraid to be too smart, and is unwilling to sacrifice all the easy jokes that came with this high-concept premise free of charge. But it is amusing nevertheless, and even a little sexy; Cameron Diaz certainly hasn’t been filmed this lovingly since The Mask. If it didn’t get unnecessarily judgmental about sexual experimentation – and eventually make light of motion picture piracy, an issue you’d think Hollywood would be just a little bit more concerned about – it could have even been a little bit special. Instead it’s just a naughty little escapade, enjoyable at the time but perhaps worth feeling guilty about immediately afterwards.