[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ex Tape is a chaotic story that will draw only a few laughs. The concept of the film is good, but the execution misses the mark in almost every aspect. That’s because what makes the concept so good is how relevant it is to the everyday person, but since it’s so relatable, audiences will have certain expectations for the story. By and large, those expectations won’t be met, which is a very special kind of disappointment, because this kind of story seems easy and straightforward to tell.
Annie and Jay (Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) are the hip and edgy parents of two young children. Unfortunately, the realities of parenthood have sucked the sex out of Annie and Jay’s marriage, which is especially hard for them because they used to be hot and heavy in the sack as often they as could in their pre-family life. To spice things up, the couple decides to make a sex tape in a drunken stupor, and Jay records the act using his iPad. Unfortunately, Jay has a special app that syncs the contents of his iPad to all the iPads he’s ever owned, which is problematic because he gives away old iPads that he doesn’t need. And he’s given away a lot of iPads, including one to Annie’s potential new boss, Hank (Rob Lowe), whose company wants to make sure Annie’s public persona as a mommy blogger is the kind of wholesomeness that is in line with the company brand. Now it’s a race against time for Annie and Jay to make sure no one sees their sex tape.
The concept behind Sex Tape is not only a good movie plot, but also timely and relevant. Not only have sex tapes become ubiquitous, but so have people who have run afoul of technology they don’t fully understand. Sometimes this is unintentionally humorous, like when an old couple accidentally records themselves while trying to figure out how a camera works. Sometimes it’s appalling, like when a congressman is caught sending nude pictures of his anatomy to young supporters. In any event, audiences understand the comic potential for this premise. Generally, people would be embarrassed to have a sex tape leaked. But how much more embarrassed would they be if they were inhibited or really needed to maintain a public image that ran counter to the idea of sex tapes? The more embarrassed the person is, the more desperate they might be to make sure no one sees the tape, the funnier the film is for audiences. For some reason the filmmakers here chose a different formula to work with.
First, Annie is very comfortable sharing her sex life with world via her mommy blog. She writes about all of the erections her husband had and all of the crazy sex they had – some in full exhibitionist fashion, like in their college library or in the quad or in Annie’s dorm room with the door ajar for any passerby to get an eyeful. And, of course, audiences get to see everything Annie describes, thus eliminating the comedic sympathy viewers might feel for someone less open about their sexuality when the sex tape gets leaked.
Secondly, the dilemma of Annie’s potential new boss seeing the sex tape is largely inconsequential to the story. For one, it’s revealed half way through the film that Hank isn’t as uptight as his business persona first led Annie to believe. For another, even if Hank decided to not hire Annie due to the sex tape, what real impact does that decision have on Annie and Jay? Jay makes an offhanded comment that Annie getting the position would “solve a lot of problems”, but what problems is he talking about? It can’t be financial since his income alone affords him enough cash to buy multiple iPads and actually give away old iPads he doesn’t need anymore.
Knowing these things about these characters, why should audiences really care about their situation beyond Annie and Jay simply not wanting their sex tape out in public? They don’t mind having sex in public, sharing their sex lives online with the public and probably won’t be impacted too much if Annie doesn’t get the job with Hank. The sex tape leak seems more like an overblown inconvenience than anything else.
Sex Tape would have been better served if Annie and Jay had been portrayed as more conservative types in the lower middle class instead of the upper middle class. Making those changes to the story, a sex tape leak would be socially embarrassing and losing a job over a sex tape would have a real financial impact. Sex Tape could have been a neat little heist movie where Annie and Jay have to break into Hank’s home and score the iPad, all the while running into cameos of famous sex tape subjects, like Paris Hilton, Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson. Instead, Sex Tape feels like one giant inappropriate commercial for iPads, with just one sex tape star.