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Reginald Hudlin
Elizabeth Hurley, Matthew Perry, Cedric the Entertainer, Bruce Campbell, Amy Adams, Vincnet Pastore
Writing Credits:
Jack Sherick, David Ronn

The One Thing That Could Bring Them Together Is Revenge.
Box Office:
Budget $29 million.
Opening weekend $5.758 million on 2154 screens.
Domestic gross $16.93 million.
Rated PG-13 for crude humor, sexual content and language.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/28/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Reginald Hudlin
• “Serving Sara: A Look Inside the Process”
• Outtakes
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended/Alternate Scenes
• Trailer


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Serving Sara (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 23, 2003)

When will the Friends curse end? Over the eight-plus years since that series debuted, its six core actors have appeared in scads of different movies, but very few of them have achieved commercial success. Courtney Cox’s Scream series certainly caused a sensation, and Ace Ventura Pet Detective also did well, though the latter predated the start of Friends so it shouldn’t count. Lisa Kudrow’s Analyze This scored acceptably at the box office, though its sequel tanked. Matt LeBlanc’s Lost In Space didn’t live up to box office expectations, but its $69 million gross makes it a top-earner among flicks with Friends actors.

However, the three performers acted as supporting characters in those films, and not a single flick in which a Friend took the lead has achieved real financial popularity. The closest hit came from 2000’s The Whole Nine Yards with Matthew Perry, though he had Bruce Willis to carry much of the burden and the flick still only earned $57 million.

2002’s Serving Sara did nothing to alter this trend for Matthew Perry. Ironically, when I reviewed Yards, I speculated it might signal an end to the Friends curse, but Sara proves me wrong. With a gross of only $16 million, it tanked at the box office, and it received generally negative reviews as well. As I like Perry and Friends, I hoped it’d prove more enjoyable than I’d heard, but it totally lived down to my expectations.

At the start of the flick, we meet Joe Tyler (Perry), a process server who’s on a slow streak. We watch him deliver a subpoena to a gangster and then discover that it took him much longer than normal to do this. His boss Ray (Cedric the Entertainer) chews him out for this, and we also discover that co-worker Tony (Vincent Pastore) is doing much better on the job; Tony and Joe display an antagonistic competition.

Despite Joe’s slow streak, Ray gives him a big job to serve Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley) with divorce papers. However, sleazy Tony tips her off that Joe’s on the way, so she avoids him. When Joe fails, Ray tosses the task to Tony, but Joe sabotages that effort as well. This buys him extra time, and he gets the papers to Sara.

Eventually, Joe and Sara get to know each other on a bus trip, and she offers a counterproposal to him. He explains that she’ll get screwed due to divorce laws; if she served her husband Gordon (Bruce Campbell) first, she’d make out much better. Sara states that if Joe destroys the evidence that he delivered the divorce papers to her and then nabs Gordon first, she’ll pay him a million bucks.

Essentially the rest of the movie follows these efforts. Sara and Joe chase after Gordon while Tony and others chase after them. The plot thickens as additional complications occur. Inevitably, Joe and Sara fall for each other as well.

At its heart, Serving Sara offers a decent concept, but the execution seems terrible. One key to its failure comes from Perry, who appears horribly miscast as Joe. He can pull off Chandler’s sarcasm but lacks the range to portray Joe, who uses different personalities to do his job. For example, in the starting scene he adopts a James Bond style character, and he also plays a Texas veterinarian and a wealthy Brit among others.

All of them sound and act just like Chandler with a different accent. Joe really needed someone more versatile in the role. Perry seems absolutely terrible, as he displays none of the chameleon tendencies necessary for the part. Instead, he just seems loud and obnoxious. The performances from Cedric and Pastore follow suit, as they also come across as grating.

It doesn’t help that Perry displays absolutely no chemistry with Hurley. The latter isn’t much of an actress, but she possesses enough charm and sex appeal to work decently in the part. Unfortunately, the pair fail to connect in any form, and their scenes together present no spark or pizzazz. Frankly, it often felt like they appeared in different movies.

Rather than attempt cleverness, Sara substitutes crudeness. It’s not enough for them to force Perry to shove his hand up the rear of an impotent bull; the filmmakers also make the critter fart in Perry’s face. The movie doesn’t often fall to such base levels, but it never presents anything amusing or inventive.

Overall, Serving Sara totally fails to create a compelling or intriguing piece. Instead, it comes across as leaden, flat, and charmless. Seen elsewhere, the performers do good work, but packaged here they seem inane and unlikable for the most part.

Six degrees of Bing alert: as most folks know, Matthew Perry plays Chandler Bing on Friends. However, that word crops up with connections to other participants as well. Steve Bing fathered Liz Hurley’s child, and Vincent Pastore used to appear on The Sopranos, which features a strip joint called the Bada Bing.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B / Bonus B-

Serving Sara appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not one of the better looking discs on the market, Sara generally provided a positive picture.

Sharpness seemed adequate. The movie presented reasonably crisp and concise visuals, and I noticed no signs of softness or fuzziness. Instead, the film appeared detailed and accurate. I detected some small signs of jagged edges and shimmering, and I also witnessed a little edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, the movie displayed a bit of grain and it also demonstrated some speckles and grit. None of these issues appeared pervasive, but they appeared heavier than I’d expect from a 2002 release.

Colors varied but usually seemed solid. The scenes in Miami came across best, as they demonstrated bright and vivid tones. In other shots, however, the hues could appear somewhat heavy and muddy; they didn’t look terrible, but they seemed a little drab. Black levels were slightly inky at times, and shadows occasionally appeared somewhat thick. Both elements usually looked pretty good, but a few of these issues popped up at times. Again, none of these problems seemed severe, but they added up to a relatively average image.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Serving Sara also seemed satisfactory but unexceptional. As one might expect from a comedy, the soundfield remained largely oriented toward the forward speakers. In that domain, the audio displayed reasonably good stereo spread for the score and it also showed acceptable activity for ambient effects. Not a lot of discrete audio occurred, as the track mostly featured environmental material. Those elements blended together cleanly and created a fairly solid setting.

As for rear speaker material, those channels mostly just offered light reinforcement of the front domain. At times, I noticed some better-delineated information, however. A short snowstorm sequence utilized the surrounds effectively, and shots at airports also brought the rear channels to life reasonably well. Nonetheless, the track remained heavily oriented toward front.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech demonstrated a little edginess at times but generally came across as natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility. Music sounded nice and warm, with clean highs and nice bass. Effects came across as clear and accurate, and they also showed good low-end response when appropriate. Overall, the soundtrack of Serving Sara offered about what I expected.

This DVD release of Serving Sara includes a smattering of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from director Reginald Hudlin, who provides a running, screen-specific affair. Unfortunately, this track seems bland at best. Lots of empty spaces crop up during the slow-moving piece, and even when Hudlin speaks, he does little more than praise the flick. At times, Hudlin adds some notes about improvisation, sets, locations, and other elements, but overall, the commentary features very little insight and doesn’t add to the viewer’s understanding or appreciation of the movie.

Next we get an exclusive featurette called Serving Sara: A Look Inside the Process. This 19-minute and five-second program mixes movie clips, behind the scenes material and interviews with Reginald Hudlin plus actors Jerry Stiller, Matthew Perry, Bruce Campbell, Elizabeth Hurley, Cedric the Entertainer and Vincent Pastore. Some of the shots from the set seem fun, and a smidgen of information pops up at times, though Hudlin often just repeats notes already heard in the commentary. For the most part, unfortunately, “Process” just lavishes praise on the project. The participants praise each other and the flick as a whole. Perhaps 90 seconds of actual useful data appears in this program, and it generally feels like a puffy waste of time.

After this we find four minutes of Outtakes. These cover three domains: “Gordon in the Office”, “Mechanical Bull”, and “Tony on the Plane”. Some of the shots actually seem moderately amusing, but they don’t provide anything special. We can watch the clips with or without commentary from Hudlin, whose remarks offer little useful information. His statements allow the “Tony” clip to make sense, but his details about the “Bull” sequence mostly appear in his main commentary. As for “Gordon”, he tells us he wanted the scene to stay in the movie but doesn’t relate why he removed it.

More unused footage shows up next as we get two Deleted Scenes: “Roadside” and “Tony Asks For Directions”. Combined, these only last 130 seconds. “Roadside” provides a little unnecessary exposition, while “Directions” shows a short encounter between Tony and Gordon’s thug. The latter’s actually almost funny. Hudlin offers more commentary, and he again provides little information. He tells us very briefly why “Roadside” got cut, but he doesn’t say a word during “Directions”.

The disc’s last batch of unused material shows up in the Extended/Alternate Scenes section. This includes three clips: “The Punch”, “Meadow Muffin”, and “Missing Stapler”. These run a total of four minutes, 17 seconds. These lightly expand on some minor characters but don’t seem very substantial. Hudlin adds commentary that gives us information about why he cut “Punch”, but he doesn’t tell us those details for the other two.

Lastly, the DVD provides the film’s theatrical trailer, presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Bizarrely, the ad changes a key element of the movie. It removes the divorce elements and refers to Gordon as Sara’s “business partner” who she wants to “sue”.

One new twist to Serving Sara: for the first time I can recall on a Paramount DVD, we find a trailer that plays when you start the DVD. It advertises Paramount’s romantic movies. You can skip this easily, but it’s not a positive trend in my opinion. Still, at least they don’t pour on tons of trailers ala Disney DVDs.

Tacky and overdone, Serving Sara fails to connect in any positive way. The movie simply seems idiotic and crass, and it wastes some good talent. The DVD provides fairly average picture and sound plus a roster of extras that offers decent quantity but not very good quality. If you liked Serving Sara, you’ll probably enjoy this DVD, but I can’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t already know they care for the flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9166 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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