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Serving Sara

When Matthew Perry ended up in rehab during the filming of Serving Sara (2002), he should have taken it as a sign — nothing short of divine intervention could have saved this movie, and the so-called "romantic comedy" is a trite, forced bore that squanders the talents of everyone involved. Perry, doing a slightly scruffier version of Friends' Chandler Bing (we know he's rougher because he says things like "I froze my dick off"), stars as New Yorker Joe Tyler, a disillusioned-lawyer-turned-process-server/aspiring vintner. Worried because he seems to be losing his subpoena-shuffling edge to rival Tony (The Sopranos' own Vincent Pastore), Joe doggedly pursues the case of Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley, who, all evidence to the contrary in this film, really can do comedy). Sara, the trophy wife of millionaire cattle baron Gordon (played with Texas-sized gusto by everyone's favorite B-movie actor, Bruce Campbell), is astounded to discover that her husband wants a divorce; bent on revenge, she concocts a scheme to serve Gordon his papers first — and in return for helping her, she'll give Joe a cool $1 million. Faster than you can say "contrived plot," the unlikely pair jets off to Texas, where a series of mishaps prevents them from getting to Gordon until (naturally) the last possible second; in the meantime, they (of course) fall for each other...remember, this is a romantic comedy. As Chandler himself might say, could this movie be any more predictable? Though it's interesting to see Perry try to do a character a little edgier and darker than his previous Bing clones, this isn't the right showcase for that switch. As for Hurley, her Sara seems almost immune to deep emotions; the five seconds she spends crying after she finds out Gordon's been cheating on her are as close as you'll get to seeing her mourn a marriage she (presumably) was fully committed to. Cedric the Entertainer thankfully provides a few comic interludes as Joe and Tony's colorful (literally!) boss, Ray, but that's about as good as it gets. In fact, to see the film's funniest scene, head for the outtakes section of Paramount's DVD; watching Campbell put Gordon's lawyer in a headlock is more grin-worthy than all of Perry's quips combined. Other extras on the disc include three extended/alternate scenes, two deleted scenes, two more outtake bits, a standard 19-minute "making-of" featurette, the trailer, and a sporadically effusive commentary by director Reginald Hudlin (Boomerang, The Ladies' Man). The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong, and the audio options (English DD 5.1, English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround, and English subtitles) are more than adequate. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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