Serving Sara

(2002) * Pg-13
100 min. Paramount. Director: Reginald Hudlin. Cast: Matthew Perry (II), Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Campbell, Amy Adams, Vincent Pastore.

Those wondering why someone with the money and resources of Friends star Matthew Perry wouldn't spend them to commission and develop good screenplays have since learned that Perry had other things on his mind (namely a variety of legal and illegal substances). The film Serving Sara became infamous for being the one put on hold when Perry admirably entered rehab. Perry, then, has an excuse for this sorry comedy (which he dutifully returned to finish), but director Reginald Hudlin, co-star Elizabeth Hurley, and especially writers Jay Scherick and David Ronn remain accountable.

The flavorless and endlessly derivative Serving Sara tells of what happens when Perry's process server Joe Tyler serves divorce papers on the cluelessly disposable wife--Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley)--of a womanizing cowboy businessman (Bruce Campbell, trading in his pride for a more prominent supporting role than usual). Moore flips Tyler, enlisting him to serve her husband first. She promises Tyler a million dollars for his trouble, from the presumed sure-thing settlement which would ensue. There's a kernel of a funny farce in this, but nothing pleasant or funny develops from it (and certainly not a compelling or credible romance, inevitable though it may be).

Hudlin makes an effort to goose things with two supporting players--Cedric the Entertainer and Vincent Pastore of The Sopranos. He squeezes some yuks out of shooting claustrophobic footage of Cedric the Entertainer ad libbing on an office set, but Pastore quickly proves to be a bad match to this material. Where The Sopranos or even Jon Favreau's Made lifted Pastore up, Serving Sara betrays his questionable talent and reduces him to warmed-over, straight-to-video-quality, Home Alone-style comedy torture. I won't get into the preternaturally intimidating thug who's a colorless rip-off of Randall "Tex" Cobb in Raising Arizona.

Hurley (giving off more than a whiff of desperation) and a bleary and bloated Perry never click or muster any laughs to speak of, but with this script, its difficult to blame them. Some may argue that the airport insecurity gags are most tasteless, but they'd be overreacting. The low point is an ill-conceived stab at a Farrelly Brothers-eque gross-out, but this insipid bull-masturbation diversion already has been several Farrelly Brothers jokes, if memory serves.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the product-placement sponsors who brought you this flat Hollywood time-waster: Verizon and Pepsi. After the film, oddly enough, I had no desire to make a phone call or have a soda.

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