A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Serving Sara is a 2002 movie in which Matthew Perry plays a New York City process server who is sent to serve divorce papers to a jilted wife played by Elizabeth Hurley who has plans to get even with her philandering Texas oil millionaire husband. There is frequent profanity, including "a--hole," "s--t," "son of a bitch," and "numb nuts." Characters are selfish, greedy, and not very likable; two rival process servers lie, cheat, and do everything they can to prevent the other from succeeding, even going so far as to open a pet crate at an airport so a vicious dog can attack the rival and leave large, bloody claw marks on his face. This same character is later shot in the rear end while trying to spy on a Texas ranch. To get a free room, a character raises her shirt and exposes her breasts (not shown) to the motel clerk. In a scene on a ranch, the lead character, mistaken for a veterinarian, is given the unpleasant task of sticking his hand into the anal cavity of an impotent bull so it will be aroused and inseminate a fake cow painted with lipstick to resemble a woman, which is shown moving in a sexual rhythm once the bull is aroused. The humor is largely cynical and negative, and there are instances of humor being used to fat-shame.
What's the story?
Joe Tyler (Matthew Perry) is a down-on-his-luck process server who's getting far fewer legal notices served than Tony (Vincent Pastore), his archrival in the business. With one last opportunity to prove himself, Joe must serve divorce papers to one Sara Moore (Elizabeth Hurley). When she's finally presented with the papers, she's shocked and heartbroken but makes a business proposition to Tyler: If he does not file the paperwork and instead serves divorce papers to her philandering Texas oil tycoon soon-to-be ex-husband, she will pay him one million dollars. The result is a wild goose chase across Texas in which Joe and Sara try to find a way to outwit her ex-husband, his new trophy girlfriend, his hired goons, and Tony, who wants to make the money for himself and put Joe out of business once and for all.
Is it any good?
With a good-enough premise, Serving Sara could have been funnier and more enjoyable than it actually is, but with its noir humor and unlikable characters, it falls short. Part of it stems from Matthew Perry, who plays a cynical and greedy jerk whom the audience is supposed to root for because he's less of a cynical and greedy jerk than those around him. Whereas someone like Bill Murray could pull off playing an unlikable character who gets just a little bit kinder and less self-centered as the story unfolds, Perry can't quite pull it off and comes off like a nastier version of Chandler from Friends.
Perhaps the only likable character is the jilted wife, played by Elizabeth Hurley, but one can't help but wonder how a character who is considered to be as intelligent as she is beautiful would fall for such an obnoxious jerk like her oil tycoon husband (played by Bruce Campbell) and would later fall for an only slightly less obnoxious jerk like Perry's character. And while there is a talented supporting cast (Amy Adams, Vincent Pastore, Cedric the Entertainer), nothing here makes this a particularly memorable movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about profanity in movies. Is it used to make characters sound more "real"? Is it used to make a movie seem funnier or edgier? What would be gained or lost if there hadn't been any profanity here?
How does the comedy in this movie originate in characters being greedy, selfish, or cruel? What are some other movies where bad qualities are used for comedic effect?
Two seemingly opposite characters who initially dislike each other grow to like and even love each other. What are some other examples of movies in which this formula is used? Why is this storyline so popular?
- In theaters: August 23, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: January 28, 2003
- Cast: Matthew Perry, Elizabeth Hurley, Vincent Pastore
- Director: Reginald Hudlin
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Crude humor, sexual content and language.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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