You might think that trying to make a feel-good movie about
drug and alcohol rehab would be a bad idea. You’d be right.
This new Sandra Bullock vehicle from writer Susannah Grant
(“Erin Brockovich”) and director Betty Thomas (“The Brady
Bunch Movie,” “Private Parts,” “Dr. Dolittle”) is a sappy
mixture of farce and pathos, filled with characters who seem
to have wandered in from TV sitcoms and story twists that
couldn’t be more cliched if they tried.

The focus is on Gwen Cummings (Bullock), a party girl who
spends her days and nights drinking and doing drugs with her
hunky but co-dependent boyfriend (Dominic West). Together
the couple ruins the wedding of Gwen’s long-suffering sister
Lily (Elizabeth Perkins), and our heroine is packed off to
court-ordered rehab, which she expects will have little effect
on her behavior. But she eventually decides to change her
life, not only as a result of the efforts of her counselor
(Steve Buscemi, in a thankless role), but because of the
relationships she builds with fellow sufferers: a hunky
ballplayer (Viggo Mortensen), a gay physical-fitness nut
(Alan Tudyk), a sad housewife (Diane Ladd), an addicted doctor
(Reni Santoni), a sex-crazed alcoholic (Mike O’Malley) and
her roommate, fragile heroin addict Andrea (Azura Skye).

The picture might have its heart in the right place, but the
writing is relentlessly obvious and the characterizations
thoroughly pedestrian. There’s never any doubt that Gwen is
going to change for the better, or that her relationship with
boyfriend Jasper is doomed; and all of Bullock’s frantic
overacting and Thomas’ intercutting of flashbacks of Gwen’s
unhappy childhood can’t make the protagonist any more
interesting. (Indeed she remains at the close, as she was
at the beginning, a pretty irritating little twit.) Her fellow
patients are even more predictably sketched. One is so clearly
not going to survive that the writer might have put a sign
reading “Dead Meat” on her from the first scene, and all are
provided with the kinds of quirks that are supposed to render
them lovable but eventually just grow tiresome. It’s surely
a measure of the desperation of the script that one of its
“inventions” is to have the group get interested in a TV
soap opera, from which outrageously silly scenes are regularly
shown. It’s difficult enough to parody a genre that’s already
a parody to begin with, of course, but in the case of “28 Days”
it’s an especially embarrassing device because the movie’s
plot doesn’t really rise above the soap opera level itself.

For much of the seemingly interminable running-time of “28
Days,” I kept thinking about the serenity prayer which its
characters chant early on in the picture: “Lord, give me
the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the
courage to change those I can, and the wisdom to know the
difference.” Obviously a hapless viewer has no power to change
a movie as bad as this one, so he has to tolerate it as best he
can. If he’s truly wise, however, he’ll skip it altogether.