Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Sex Tape

Film #457

THE PLOT

A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts.

Year 3, Film #7

THE GOOD/BAD: Sex Tape falls under the category of one of those films where the story is told in the trailer and so are many of the funniest jokes. You also get the general jist of it right from the one sentence premise too: Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) make a sex tape that ends up in the hands of their friends. And while this has inherent detractors in terms of entertainment (which I’ll get into more) it also brought with it some surprising benefits too. All of the elements I’m going to mention are at the same time entertaining and somehow endearing, while also taking away from the comedy and story.

One such element is the film’s reliance on the omnipresent “cloud” that everyone talks about constantly nowadays. Everything is in the cloud now and the word has become synonymous in our language with new technologies. Where Sex Tape surprised me was in it’s over-use and over-simplification of the cloud. Based on the trailer I thought it would just serve as the macguffin but it turns out to be much more satiric. By dumbing it down and blaming all of the problems on this faceless thing that engulfs us, it made it funny instead of just overbearing. The cloud is shoved down our throats and is overwhelming at times, but at the same time it’s funny to hear these characters talk about something they think they know everything about when in fact they know almost nothing. Sort of like the so-bad-it’s-good scenario only here it’s so-in-your-face-it’s-funny.

Another part that has the bipolar effect is the story and for very similar reasons. It’s a very simple story with not a lot going on: Annie and Jay made a sex tape, they try and get it back. Those are the only two important plot points. All the minor points and other characters add meat to the film and provide laughs and funny jokes along the way, but they could be substituted out for different events and jokes and still have the same effect. The comedy isn’t reliant on the story; it’s reliant on the writing of the one-liners and the delivery from the actors. This is a large part to any type of comedy — writing and delivery (arguably the only two parts) — but having some of the comedy be inherent to the story is always better. Some things are funnier in context and as a small part of a whole rather than a portable joke that could be told in any situation and get laughs. Sex Tape has a little of both — the funniest context-driven jokes being courtesy of Robbie (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper), friends of Annie and Jay — but it’s over-reliance on the “portable” jokes, while still funny, detracts from the better laughs.

THE BAD: One part that has no good associated with it and lands solely in the bad category is the ending. If you’ve seen The Hangover or the many films that have come since then (and probably also before it), you should be familiar with the, show the thing that was talked about in it’s entirety. In The Hangover, the pictures of the blackout night are shown over the credits to give you an idea of the crazy shenanigans that you didn’t actually see that formed the whole basis for the film. In Sex Tape, it’s a similar idea where they show scenes from Annie and Jay’s tape and also fast-forward through other parts. Problem one is that they do it pre-credits and therefore is solely in the land of story-centric. The problem though is that it’s superfluous. Show it over the credits as a sort of bonus because that’s exactly what it is. The whole point of the film is to allude to the sex tape without ever really seeing it. Which leads into part two of the problem which is that to top it all off, we actually saw the beginnings of the filming and mentions of it throughout the film instead of being like the mysterious night in The Hangover where the last thing we see is the wolf pack taking the shots. That’s all you need in general and is all that is needed here: the impetus that creates the conflict without ever seeing the result.

THE TAKEAWAY: Sex Tape is filled with jokes and focuses heavily on a satire of how important the “cloud” has become in our society. While this does provide laughs and some entertainment value, it’s dumbed-down and over-simplified plot, characters, and easy jokes also take away a lot of that entertainment and leave you with some satisfaction, but a big desire for something better.

Sex Tape opens in theaters this Friday, July 18, 2014.

THE RATING: 3 out of 5