Joe Tyler (Matthew Perry) is a subpoena server who's been on a months-long losing streak. When approached by his boss (Cedric the Entertainer) to go out and serve divorce papers to a seemingly easy mark named Sara (Elizabeth Hurley), Joe learns that Sara might have a better deal for him. If he will subpoena Sara's husband (Bruce Campbell) first, so that she gets the better end of any divorce settlement, she will pay Joe $1 million. Delighted at the prospect of achieving his life-long dream of owning a vineyard, Joe switches sides, and soon the two are off to Texas to find Sara's husband, who's a lot harder to serve than Joe expected.
"Serving Sara" (IMDb listing) is one of those excruciating comedies that makes you think, "was this even funny on the set?" A labored yukfest with almost no yuks, the film is a another misstep for director Reginald Hudlin, who ten years ago burst on the scene with the magnificent urban classic, "House Party." It's been a slow decline ever since, with less successful comedies like "Boomerang" and "The Ladies Man," or flat-out disasters like "The Great White Hype" coming one after another. "Serving Sara" is the first film without any personal stamp from Hudlin, trading his more agreeable comedic tastes for those he assumes will appeal to a wider audience. Namely fart gags, jokes repeated two or three times, and comedic actors floundering wildly with no help from the filmmaker. Is this what Hudlin imagines we like? God, I miss Kid N' Play...
You can also fling the blame over to screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn, who give the cast nothing to play with. Their story of a conflicted process server is an interesting one, and if you sit there and think about the potential of the premise, you can come up with ten times funnier stuff than the two screenwriters did. Consider this: "Serving Sara" has a scene in which Joe must massage a bull's prostate to get the beast to mount an artificial cow. Hilarious? It's insulting and low-brow material like this that keeps the film from ever breaking free and finding its own peaks of comedic whimsy.
While Matthew Perry can be delightful and charming in films like "Fools Rush In" and "The Whole Nine Yards," he is essentially doing small variations on his Chandler character from "Friends." In "Serving Sara," Perry is trying on a more tough-talking persona. A small break away, and it's nice, but soon enough, Chandler rears his head again whenever Perry can't find his way to a solid laugh. Considering the film is almost laugh-free, he goes to Chandler far too much. He's not helped much by Elizabeth Hurley, who can't tell a joke to save her life, nor Bruce Campbell, who's just picking up a much-deserved paycheck. While Perry's "Friends" co-star Jennifer Aniston is busy trying on her dramatic wings in the current "The Good Girl," to a wonderful result, Perry is still content to do the Curly Shuffle in films way beneath his, admittedly, limited talents.
This is the reason why they call it the August Doldrums. A forgettable comedy that will hit home video as soon as you finish reading this review, "Serving Sara" should be subpoenaed for promoting itself as a film with laughs in it.
Filmfodder Grade: D-