[box cover]

28 Days: Special Edition

The DVD boxcover says it all — drug rehab is fun! Yes it's true — Betty Thomas' 28 Days takes the greatest cinematic risks with solemn subject matter since the perfectly awful Patch Adams, tackling a fairly serious topic (medical care, substance abuse) with a jab at the funnybone. The good news is that 28 Days isn't nearly as bad as Patch Adams (how could any film be?) — but nobody here will be thanking the Academy either. Sandra Bullock stars in this detox dramedy as Gwen, a boozy young party girl who lives by the mantra "If you're not having fun, what's the point?" For Gwen, "fun" means drinks, dancing, pills, and getting into socially-awkward scrapes with her cynical English boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West), who is the "enabler" of the piece, you see. But when Gwen turns up drunk at her sister Lily's (Elizabeth Perkins) wedding — destroying the three-tiered cake and then crashing the matrimonial limo — she is offered a diversion to rehab rather than go to jail on a DUII charge. Do you need any more plot summary? Let's look at that boxcover again. Gwen, initially hostile to the rigors of rehab (you chant, you hold hands, you cry, you have slogans) soon starts to make peace with the inner demons of her wretched childhood that have turned her into a not-quite-adult with a fistful of Vicodin, and along the way she meets all sorts of funny, wacky folks who also have serious drug problems, including a gay German guy (Alan Tudyk, who is so stereotypically wilting it's amazing this film wasn't picketed) and a baseball player (Viggo Mortensen) trying to get straight in the off-season. Of course, nobody gave Sunny Sandra that A-list paycheck expecting a revival of Clean and Sober, but director Thomas and scenarist Susannah Grant (who also penned Erin Brockovich) tend to undermine the material, both by simply introducing too many characters and story arcs for the film's 105 minutes, as well as the wild tone shifts that ask us to smirk, laugh, cry, be moved, and laugh some more at hairpin turns. 28 Days works best in the small vignettes — particularly the ones that are actually amusing — but there aren't enough, and they are crowded between too many other things. And Grant's script does pay an homage to Patch Adams with an unnecessarily maudlin turn towards the end that would evoke sympathy were it not so formulaic and predictable. Why do we not mention of Steve Buscemi, who plays Gwen's hard-assed counselor? Because he's barely in the movie and he ain't funny. Had he been one of the neurotic chain-smokers in group, prattling on about anything at all, 28 Days may have had a handful of more valuable moments. In any case, Columbia TriStar has loaded plenty of extra stuff on their 28 Days SE, including a commentary with Thomas and crew, a 15-minute HBO featurette, a 25-minute look at the fictional soap opera "Santa Cruz" (which features in the film), textual notes on how to make a gum-wrapper chain, three outtakes of character "testimonials," two extra songs from Loudon Wainwright III (who has a small role), a trailer, and cast notes. Solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), DD 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Keep-case.

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