Serving Sara

2002, Movie, PG-13, 97 mins

Review

SERVING SARA
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The most memorable sequence in this mediocre romantic comedy finds star Matthew Perry, of TV's hugely popular Friends, with his arm buried in a breeding bull with performance problems. Bad enough that the gag wouldn't be out of place in a Farrelly brothers gross-out picture — the real problem is that it isn't funny and seems to go on forever. Smart-mouthed, New York-based process server Joe Tyler (Perry) is charged with delivering divorce papers to Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley), whose wealthy Texas heel of a husband, Gordon (Bruce Campbell), intends to throw her over for a trophy tart (Amy Adams) and cut her out of her fair share of the considerable marital assets. Through a series of comic contrivances, Joe and Sara agree to team up and serve Gordon first, thereby sweetening her divorce deal. Obstacles to this plan include rival process server Tony (Vincent Pastore), who's determined to screw up Joe any way he can, and the phalanx of employees, sycophants and schemers who close ranks around Gordon once he realizes Sara is back in the heart of Texas with vengeance on her mind. Meanwhile, Sara and Joe are falling in love, though the stars have so little romantic chemistry that the moment when they finally kiss is almost as awkward as that unfortunate business with the bull. Director Reginald Hudlin and screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn never seem to have settled on a comic tone, with painfully uneven results. The film lurches from slapstick pratfalls in an airport baggage area (the aftermath of which finds Hurley fishing a schoolgirl-fantasy hooker outfit out of someone else's suitcase and wearing the trampy get-up for most of the rest of the film) to stereotypical ethnic humor and what passes for verbal wit. "Nostradumbass," Joe taunts Tony. "Boo-hyphen-hoo," Tony replies. Cedric the Entertainer's role as Joe and Tony's big-talking boss is just an excuse for him to indulge in his trademark blustering schtick, which slows down a film that's already wearing out its welcome. The usually reliable Campbell is embarrassingly exaggerated as the duplicitous Gordon, and Perry is thoroughly unconvincing as a tough guy — even one whose toughness is mostly an act. Surprisingly, Hurley comes off better than either of her demonstrably more versatile co-stars; she's not much of an actress, but she has an engagingly saucy swagger and her open-mouthed expression of outraged disbelief is priceless. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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