Lensed in the style of a gritty drama, with slightly bleached cinematography, blurry "I'm drunk" POV shots and some heavy-handed cutting, 28 Days sets itself up as a Leaving Las Vegas kind of moral messenger. "DRINK AND DRUGS ARE BAD!" it screams. But, slowly, it begins to lose its nerve. As Gwen arrives in rehab with its bog-standard collection of oddballs - mixed-up teen, kindly granny, sassy black mama, dumb horny guy, sarky fella with the usual hidden heart of gold - 28 Days begins trying to soften its tone. All of sudden it starts sheepishly whispering: "Drink and drugs are... Well, still not good, but quite funny really, in the right sort of light. Honest".
Before you know it, Gwen and co are alternating serious talks about how various addictions have destroyed their lives with chirpy japes straight out of the Basic Therapy Comedy guide book. Maybe the way an overdose butts up against the sight of the patients acting out a scene from their favourite daytime soap opera is meant to be a perceptive juxtaposition of the tragic and the comic, but director Thomas never quite pulls it off. The result is a mixed film that confuses rather than questions, that elicits giggles when it wants tears and, at certain points, finds its own jokes undermined as audiences wonder if it's really all right to laugh.
Take chunks of 28 Days in isolation and they'd probably work fairly well. Steve Buscemi's criminally wasted in a near cameo as Bullock's counsellor, but Thomas manages to milk every predictable laugh from the rest of the ensemble. Bullock (a glowing advert for the wonders of alcohol abuse as a guaranteed way to great skin and hair if ever there was one) may look out of her depth in the wild-child boozer bits (presumably Angelina Jolie's diary was full that week), but she handles the kooky comedy material and persona as well as she ever has.
Big-yuks comedy and social conscience drama don't sit well together and this is movie with a serious identity problem. There's much to enjoy here, but 28 Days is a bit too patchy to be the hit that restores Bullock to A-list status.