The social media explosion saturating our culture the last few years has undoubtedly altered the way everyone consumes and processes information. All aspects of post-millennial life are affected, some of which have adjusted to the transition more easily than others. The shift in interpersonal communication is perhaps the most obvious and sweeping change taking place across modern society, as the framework of many relationships now relies heavily on technology to stay intact. Yet somehow, the ability to document, share and discuss every facet of our lives with a seemingly infinite, often anonymous audience only makes the distance between the people who really matter to each other grow farther.
In the new comedy “Sex Tape,” hitting theaters this Friday, a charming but exhausted married couple tries to revitalize their alone time by embracing a certain trend in digital romance to which many starlets and suburbanites alike have fallen victim. The race to undo their mistake results, of course, in an outrageous series of pranks and pratfalls that only exemplifies the importance of prioritizing real conversations over virtual ones. The movie is self-aware enough to eventually follow its own advice, but, much like its two central characters, not without taking a few spectacularly embarrassing stumbles along the way.
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel star as Annie and Jay, a lifestyle blogger and radio station engineer, respectively, who are still very much in love after more than a decade of marriage. The bulk of their time is spent understandably focused on work and their two young children, but the years of devoting energy to their household, careers and family has taken a toll on their romantic life neither Annie nor Jay can continue denying.
After several unsuccessful attempts to squeeze some long-overdue sexy time into their schedules, Annie decides to be impulsive instead and surprise Jay with an unexpected child-free night at home. So far, so good. Annie’s idea to add roller skates and red panties into the mix certainly helps, as does her good fortune of looking like Cameron Diaz. Jay knows he’s a lucky dude, and Segel plays him with the right mix of aw-shucks earnestness and Everyman likability. Annie capitalizes on the evening’s potential with the suggestion they record themselves trying out every position in the classic book “The Joy of Sex,” and the effort results in a three-hour video Jay promises to delete…first thing in the morning. Uh-oh.
The concept of “Sex Tape” is so simple and straightforward, almost anyone could guess what unfolds after Annie and Jay realize their private experiment has taken a very public field trip through cyberspace. However, director Jake Kasdan doles out a few surprises along the way through an assortment of supporting players to join Annie and Jay’s frantic chase, the most noteworthy of which is probably Rob Lowe as an eccentric media mogul with soft spots for Disney, death metal and cocaine. Yes, you read that right.
“Sex Tape” attempts to follow the same formula that made Kasdan’s previous work with Diaz and Segel, 2011’s equally raunchy but more successfully uproarious “Bad Teacher,” soar to box office success, but the film ultimately suffers under the weight of disjointed pacing, sluggish punchlines and repetitious sequences. Diaz and Segel do make for an affable onscreen pair, and one wishes they’d been given a better opportunity to showcase their talent and chemistry. Segel and longtime collaborator Nicholas Stoller have hit the screenwriting jackpot in the past, most notably with 2008’s stellar “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but their work here seems to be facing problems with structure and platform.
Sharp observations about long-term relationships, modern gender roles, and the overwhelming advancement of technology are mostly lost in a sea of unfortunate clichés and predictable slapstick; luckily, the movie’s general statement about the importance of honest communication in relationships ultimately shines through even the most cringe-worthy moments. Given the skills of its cast and crew, “Sex Tape” could have launched itself as a contemporary comedy classic in the vein of “Bridesmaids” or even “Bad Teacher.” Unfortunately, like Annie and Jay’s titular video, most of its wit and charm appears to have gotten lost in the Cloud.
[infobox]“Sex Tape” opens nationwide Friday, July 18, 2014.[/infobox]