SERVING SARA Even as Jennifer Aniston is receiving glowing reviews for her subtle performance in the critical darling The Good Girl, her Friends co-star Matthew Perry is forced to mug his way through a sputtering comedy that, in one scene, requires him to stick his arm deep into an impotent bull's butt and massage its prostate so the animal will start delivering its seed into a plastic decoy cow (with Friends like these, who needs enemas?). Ah, the fickle finger of fate -- or the bargaining ability of actors' agents, whichever the case may be. At any rate, Perry does himself no favors by appearing in this slapdash effort, which finds him playing a process server who is ordered to deliver divorce papers to the British wife (Elizabeth Hurley) of a loutish Texas millionaire (Bruce Campbell). He eventually teams up with the betrayed woman to serve her husband the papers first, thereby insuring she'll have a bigger cut of their accumulated fortune. Serving Sara wallows in the sort of ribald putdowns and ethnic slurs not seen since the heyday of comics like Don Rickles, but most of it is desperate rather than funny (phrases like "Eat me" are what pass for innovative wit in this feature). Hurley has been amusing in other comedies but here she seems adrift, and she and Perry seem about as believable a romantic couple as would a lion and a lemur. 1/2
THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH This Eddie Murphy comedy has been sitting on a studio shelf since circa the time the wheel was first invented; it cost $100 million to make; it wasn't screened in advance for critics; and it grossed a paltry $2 million on its opening weekend. A review at this point might seem rather anti-climactic, but on the mere chance that there's somebody out there still intrigued at the prospect of seeing the diverse likes of John Cleese, Pam Grier and Burt Young all gracing the same film, I'm here to say it ain't worth the time, cost or deterioration of brain cells. The sad thing about this abysmal effort, set on the moon in the year 2087, isn't that it's terrible; it's that it's terrible without even being enjoyable in a bad-movie sorta way. Even the gang from the late, lamented Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have trouble finding much to riff off in this turkey, which is unremittingly dull more than anything else. Murphy plays the title character, an entrepreneur whose wildly successful moon-based nightclub becomes the focus for a shady gangster interested in muscling his way into the business. After his club gets destroyed, Nash takes it on the lam, dragging an aspiring singer (Rosario Dawson) and a horny robot (Randy Quaid, annoying but trying hard, bless his heart) along with him. Imagine if the Total Recall sets had been placed in a fire sale, and you'll get an idea of the film's drab visual scheme. As for the comedy quotient, I counted exactly two laughs, which breaks down to $50 million per chuckle -- definitely not a sound return on investment.
BLOOD WORK Viewing the latest Clint Eastwood picture is akin to watching a jogger who makes the mistake of sprinting out in front at the start of a marathon, only to run out of steam somewhere along the way and limp across the finish line. For a good while, Blood Work looks as if it might be Eastwood's best picture in years, with the star-director-producer playing an FBI agent who suffers a heart attack while pursuing a serial killer known as "The Code Killer." Settling into retirement, he ends up with someone else's heart inside him, and is thus forced back into action when he learns that his new heart belongs to someone who was murdered. Watching an undying screen icon like Eastwood acknowledge his own frailty and mortality adds a special resonance to this picture ("Are you taking your pills daily?" asks his doctor, played by Anjelica Huston. "Yeah," he growls back, "all 36 of them"), and Eastwood's own engaging performance makes the most of the sharp dialogue to be found in Brian Helgeland's script (based on Michael Connelly's novel). But heading into the final turn, the movie turns preposterous, wasting not only a solid supporting turn by Jeff Daniels (as Eastwood's boozy neighbor) but also serving up a routine climax that goes on forever. 1/2
BLUE CRUSH This surfing flick is one of those movies that could reasonably be advertised as having "something for everyone." Teenage girls will enjoy seeing a film populated by heroines of a like age, while teenage boys will enjoy beauteous blonde lead Kate Bosworth decked out in skimpy bikinis. Women will enjoy the movie's "you go, girl" sensibilities, while men will enjoy beauteous blonde lead Kate Bosworth decked out in skimpy bikinis. And beach folk (my camp) will enjoy the gorgeous footage of the ocean while mountain folk will enjoy beauteous blonde lead Kate Bosworth decked out in skimpy bikinis and wonder exactly why they're mountain folk anyway. If nothing else, Blue Crush certainly had all the makings of a late-summer guilty pleasure, but even guilty pleasures have to rise above a pedestrian script on some level, and this eye-candy never quite makes the climb. The cinematography by Don King (billed as "water camera operator") is spectacular -- viewers are placed on top of, in the middle of, and under the waves -- and, as Bosworth's best friend, Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) continues to impress with her gruff, take-no-prisoners attitude. But the story of a high school drop-out (Bosworth) who has to decide between following her dream by entering a big surf competition or following her fantasy by shacking up with a hunky NFL quarterback (Matthew Davis) is a narrative wipe out almost from the start.