Serving up laughs.
Boy I'll tell you, those wacky Friends cast members…they keep on trying to break into the movies with almost no avail. Anyone see Matt LeBlanc's horrific monkey movie Ed? How about the David Schwimmer dud The Pallbearer? Maybe you remember the Lisa Kudrow crap fest Lucky Numbers? No? Well, there's a reason most of their movies have gone unnoticed: they suck. In 2002, Matthew Perry tried his hand once more at feature length comedy (previous efforts include The Whole Nine Yards and Fools Rush In) with Serving Sara. Also starring Elizabeth Hurley (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness), and Cedric the Entertainer (Barbershop), Serving Sara is now available on DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Joe Tyler (Perry) is a process server who often risks life and limb to serve unsuspecting folks legal documents. Joe works for the shifty Ray Harris (Cedric the Entertainer) and is in competition with a rival processor named Tony (the thuggish Vincent Pastore, Corky Romano). Joe thinks he's seen every trick in the book…that is, until he serves Sara Moore (Hurley) divorce papers from her rich, cheating Texan hubby Gordon (Campbell). Immediately after serving Sara her due, Joe is offered an opportunity he can't refuse: help Sara to serve Gordon her papers first and he can have $1 million from the divorce settlement. Suddenly the race is on for Joe and Sara to find Gordon and serve him his papers before Sara is served hers!
Pardon my cantankerousness, but what the hell happened to the American comedy? In the span of one week, I watched three so-called "comedies" (Tadpole, The Banger Sisters, and Serving Sara) and not one of them was good. Sure, a few laughs were found in a couple scenes, yet overall the films were lifeless with a rating of about a 2 on the Chuckle-o-Meter. Though Serving Sara wasn't the worst of the lot, it still didn't live up to my expectations. I mean, it had Matthew Perry and the vastly underrated Bruce Campbell. How could it go wrong?
Well, goes to show how little I know.
My beef with Serving Sara is that it never attempts to go for the gusto when it comes to genuine laughs. It seems content to be only a genial, lazy movie without any outstanding characters or events. Some of the greatest or most enjoyable comedies in cinema adhere to having a great lead cast and zany supporting characters. National Lampoon's Vacation had Chevy Chase as the befuddled Clark Griswald and Randy Quaid as wacky Cousin Eddie. Tootsie had Bill Murray as Dustin Hoffman's strange roommate. And who can forget Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in Mel Brooks' classic The Producers? Well, one thing's for sure—forgettable is exactly what Serving Sara is. Matthew Perry as Joe comes off as a pale imitation of his Chandler character from Friends. Smarmy and sarcastic, it's hard to believe that any women (let alone supermodel Elizabeth Hurley) would fall for such a sad little man. Elizabeth Hurly pouts her way through the script sporting a cowboy had a "trailer trash" T-shirt that makes one wonder if she accidentally walked off a porn set. Neither of these people are bad actors—they've just been placed in a bad movie. The supporting cast offers no help: Cedric the Entertainer, so good in last year's sleeper Barbershop, spends most of the film ranting and raving on the telephone while the normally entertaining Vincent Pastore lumbers from scene to scene sporting a winter coat and a Hawaiian shirt (comedy rule #364: flashy island shirts are never funny unless worn by Rodney Dangerfield). Even Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld) pops up in an extended and rather pointless cameo role. And then there's Bruce Campbell, an actor I so wish would find a breakout film. Most moviegoers (and geeky ones at that) know Campbell as Ash, the lunkheaded protagonist from Sam Raimi's great Evil Dead trilogy. Talented to the hilt—does anyone mug better for the camera?—Campbell only needs to find himself a script to showcase his talents. Sadly, Serving Sara isn't it. Serving Sara was directed by Reginald Hudlin, whose last film was the SNL based The Ladies' Man. Hmmm, isn't that telling? From one crappy comedy to the next, Hudlin can't seem to find the right screenplay to hone his comedy chops (I will give credit where credit is due: Hudlin did direct the rather amusing House Party).
The jokes in this film are often of the American Pie variety. Hey, let's have Matthew Perry stick his hand up a cow's butt and massage its prostrate! Har har har. If I see just one more joke featuring animal semen, human excrement, or masturbation with sandpaper, I'm gonna stick my finger up my nose and play with my brain until I'm unconscious. Serving Sara has also been billed as a romantic comedy. PAA-leaze! I had an easier time buying Leona Helmsley and Tom Cruise falling love than Elizabeth Hurley's Sara having even an ounce of desire for Matthew Perry's Joe.
And so it's with great regret that I give a collective thumbs down to a movie starring the normally entertaining Matthew Perry and the king of undiscovered greatness, Bruce Campbell. Oh the horror, the horror…
Serving Sara is presented in a fine looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I don't have many complaints about this transfer—the colors and black levels are all solid and very well defined. Though the picture sports a few minor imperfections (I did notice a small amount of edge enhancement in one scene), overall Paramount has done a fine job with this image.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English and French. Since Serving Sara is a (mostly) dialogue driven comedy, it's wasn't surprising to find this mix to be front heavy with only a few scattered directional effects throughout. Though the audio track isn't very bombastic, all aspects of the mix are free and clear of any excessive hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
If you didn't get enough Serving Sara the first time around (and you know who you are), here's your chance to get even more with a small boatload of extra features. Here's a rundown of what's on the disc:
Commentary Track by Director Reginald Hudlin: Ah, the wonderful commentary track. A chance for directors, actors and other crew members to defend their film against controversy and bad reviews (guess which group this film is lumped in?). Hudlin appears to be a nice enough guy, though on par with most single participant commentaries, this one's a bit dry with silent gaps throughout. Tidbits of production and casting info are peppered along the way, so fans of the film of the film should enjoy this track.
"Serving Sara: An Inside Look At The Process" Featurette: This is a very basic promotional spot for the film. Since this isn't a thought-provoking, deeply intellectual film, the featurette is basically filled with cast and crew members (including Hurley, Campbell, Hudlin, and Perry) giving accolades to each other and the film. Mildly interesting for those who enjoyed the movie.
Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, and Extended/Alternate Scenes: Included under these sections are three outtakes, two deleted scenes, and three extended/alternate scenes. All of these scenes and outtakes also include optional commentary by the director. Not surprisingly, none of the cut or extended scenes add up to very much. The outtakes are just some flubs by the actors, which aren't very amusing.
Theatrical Trailer: For those of you who didn't get enough the first time around, here's your chance to wax nostalgic about the first time you heard about the comedy sensation that is Serving Sara.
Needless to say, I wasn't bowled over by Serving Sara's antics. While it's always nice to see Matthew Perry and Bruce Campbell on the screen, let's hope that the next time they can find a better, funnier screenplay. Paramount's work on this disc is far better than the film deserves.
Serving Sara is sentenced to serve ten years watching better, funnier comedies. Court dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Reginald Hudlin
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