Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:38 - Released 8/23/02

Gee, I don't know which movie to dislike more—Serving Sara or this week's other local release, Andrew Niccol's Simone. While Simone takes a high-minded idea and flubs it, Sara doesn't even try that hard. This is just another entry on the list of excruciatingly stupid comedies designed to waste our time and take our money. Directed by Reginald Hudlin (House Party), it pairs two likeable, beautiful actors who apparently can only play one type of role, and presents them with a script (written by Spin City team Jay Scherick and David Ronn) that lets them do it, a script designed to appeal to moviegoers whose goal is to sit in an air-conditioned theater for 1½ hours with their brains on "pause."

The story involves a New York City process server named Joe Tyler (Friends's Matthew Perry, playing another intellectual fish-out-of-water), who states in an opening voiceover, "My job sucks." Although Joe would really like to be a Napa Valley winemaker, he is forced to settle for growing grapes in his Manhattan apartment and subpoena-serving for his boss, Ray (Cedric the Entertainer, playing another self-consciously conceited black man who dresses like a pimp). Joe has been in a slump lately, and the reason for this is that his jealous co-worker Tony (Vincent Pastore, playing another fat Italian thug) has been secretly informing Joe's "marks" that they are about to be served in order to derail Joe's efforts and get the commissions himself.

The latest such mark is Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley, playing another shallow, flawless beauty). Before Joe arrives to serve her with divorce papers from her husband Gordon, a wealthy Texas cattle rancher (Bruce Campbell, playing a stereotyped, cowboy-hatted good-ole-boy), Tony warns her with a phone call, hoping he can make it to her first. Although she tries to escape, Joe finally tracks her down, mentioning that she stands to get a much smaller settlement than if she had initiated the divorce. Then the two strike a deal: if Joe will agree to destroy her papers and help her serve Gordon first, she will give him 10% of her expected $10 million settlement, (or $1 million), allowing him to retire and play with his grapes. The rest of the film follows the pair as they travel to Texas to serve Gordon (pursued by Tony, who wants to serve Sara), and getting involved in such wackily uncharacteristic activities as bovine masturbation and monster truck rallies. And, of course, falling in love.

What can I say about a movie like this? It will appeal to its target audience in the way cotton candy appeals to a kid at the county fair. It's insubstantial, quickly gone, and leaves no lasting effect except perhaps a mild case of sugar shock. If you've got too much money and too little to do, and you're a fan of Friends and/or Estee Lauder commercials, Serving Sara is perfect for you. Otherwise, serve yourself—and wait for the rental. **

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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