Irrepressible alcoholic Sandra Bullock shows up plastered at her sister’s wedding, prompting the bride, Lilly (Elizabeth Perkins), to explode: “Gwen, you make it impossible to love you!” On the contrary, actually. Bullock, whose career is founded on a vaguely agreeable screen nonpresence, would never allow Gwen, even at her most pickled and loudmouthed, to be unsympathetic, let alone a truly ugly drunk. Playing it safe, 28 Days slaps her with a DUI charge 10 minutes in, and shuttles her off for a monthlong stint in rehab, where the testy, cynical Manhattanite has her cell phone and Vicodin supply confiscated, meets her match in tough-love counselor Steve Buscemi, engages in mass bonding with a Cuckoo’s Nest coterie, accepts that she has a substance-abuse problem, and—crucially—realizes it can be blamed on other people. Flashbacks reveal a wrecked, party-monster mother looming over her two apprehensive daughters (“If you’re not having fun, peanuts, what’s the friggin’ point?!”). Lilly comes around, too. “I should have helped you with your homework,” sobs the equally troubled elder sister, before issuing the inevitable recantation: “Gwen, you make it impossible not to love you.”
Writer Susannah Grant—doing a brisk trade in interchangeable, outsize female star vehicles, having also scripted Erin Brockovich—keeps the tone improbably sunny. In this case, humor isn’t a point of entry to a thorny subject but an escape hatch: 28 Days is a rehab comedy insofar as it has a reflexively wisecracking heroine and a supporting gallery of eccentrics (most peculiar of all, an Andy Dick-ish German homosexual played by Alan Tudyk). Director Betty Thomas, who reportedly reworked Grant’s script, moves the film along, conjuring momentum out of nothing, even indulging in distracting bits of random weirdness (Loudon Wainwright III, playing Jonathan Richman in There’s Something About Mary). But whenever the movie takes itself seriously (and it’s all downhill from the moment a crudely telegraphed tragedy is enlisted to expedite Gwen’s rehabilitation), Thomas’s fleet-footed approach suggests the anxious embarrassment of a director in an awful hurry to get it over with.