Serving Sara

“Serving Sara” is a fish fart of a movie, an indistinguishable little bubble of toxic waste that ascends from an ocean of indifference until it reaches the surface and dissipates into nothingness.

Starring Matthew Perry as a process server who becomes entangled in the messy divorce of a beautiful woman (Elizabeth Hurley) and her unscrupulous husband (Bruce Campbell), “Serving Sara” finds itself being dumped right in the middle of the dog days of summer, where it can proudly howl like the mangy mutt that it is.

Remember, this is the film that Perry was shooting when he checked himself back into a rehabilitation center. Did Perry really suffer a setback, or was he looking for a reason to get out of making this film? Maybe he needed time to plot revenge against the “yes” people who talked him into doing “Serving Sara.” With “Friends” like that, who needs enemies? It’s amazing what a butt load of cash can make unstable, pain killer addicted celebrities do.

Told in the broadest possible way, “Serving Sara” works hard to pay homage to such classic road films as “It Happened One Night.” Director Reginald Hudlin not only allows his actors to go over the top, he encourages it. This isn’t comedy, it’s shtick.

As “Friends” and “The Whole Nine Yards” established, Perry can be funny. I like his understated frustration and dry sense of humor. My sister said that Perry reminds her of me. I wish I had his hair. And money. So Perry has everything it takes, except a decent script and a co-star who is about as funny as a pair of streaked pantyhose on the first day of a new job.

Is it just me, or is Elizabeth Hurley really a bad actress? Yeah, she’s beautiful, which explains why she was a model. She squeaked through the first “Austin Powers” film only because she was playing the straight man (woman) to Mike Myers’s comic brilliance.

Like in the dreadful remake of “Bedazzled,” Hurley is the worst thing about “Serving Sara.” I saw a television commercial for the film where a critic compared Hurley’s comic ability with that of the great Lucille Ball. Obviously the critic was referring to Lucy after she died. Not only is Hurley unfunny, she’s painfully so. Her comic timing has the accuracy of a sundial on a cloudy day.

Not that it matters, because ten minutes into the film it immediately becomes apparent that not only is this going to be a bumpy ride, it’s going to be sheer torture for anyone who bought a first class ticket only to find themselves sitting in the overhead baggage compartment. Writers Jay Scherick and David Ronn attempt to fill “Serving Sara” with as many screwball moments as possible, but they never gel. They pile on one complication after another in an effort to disguise the fact that the characters are thin and the dialogue is even weaker.

Director Hudlin isn’t much help behind the camera. I laughed all through Hudlin’s “House Party,” but his other attempts at comedy have been dismal to say the least. Did anyone sit through “The Great White Hype”? Even if the script for “Serving Sara” didn’t suck, Hudlin isn’t talented enough (yet) to pull off something light and fluffy like this. He wouldn’t recognize subtlety if it rode up on a Harley Davidson and hit him with a sledgehammer.

Sometimes in film, when things get really bad, it can lead to unexpected laughter. Remember “Plan Nine from Outer Space”? The cast of “Serving Sara” should be so lucky. The only thing anyone will remember about this film was how much better the coming attractions looked by comparison. If you thought the coming attraction for “Serving Sara” was funny, I agree with you. However, “Serving Sara” makes a better three minute coming attraction than a full-length film.

Then you wouldn’t have to sit through the boorish performance of Bruce Campbell as Sara’s devious husband, a wealthy cattle rancher who needs to divorce Sara in Texas in order to keep most of his money. Or the larger-than-life performance of Cedric the Entertainer as Perry’s employer, who seems to be playing to the back row of the balcony at the Apollo rather than a camera five feet away.

Technically, the film is solid but uninspired. Hudlin rarely encourages director of photography Robert Brinkmann, resulting in a crisp yet pedestrian look. Jim Miller’s editing feels restrained, while Marcus Miller’s score works overtime to try and pick up the pace.

I’ve sat through worse films, but I really wanted to like “Serving Sara.” That made the experience even more painful. Luckily the film didn’t send Perry back into rehab, but I bet it was instrumental in his agreeing to yet another season of “Friends.”

CASH AND PERRYWith “Friends” like these, who needs enemies?


Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Bruce Campbell. Cedric the Entertainer, Vincent Pastore. Directed by Reginald Hudlin. Rated PG-13.


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