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"28 Days," "Keeping the Faith," "Where the Money Is" and "Judy Berlin"

Quick Flicks

!B! "28 Days"
!B! "Keeping The Faith"
!B! "Where the Money Is"
!B! "Judy Berlin"

"28 Days" — Less sentimental and politically correct than you might expect, this comedy about a cynical writer at a rehab clinic gives Sandra Bullock another chance to prove she's more than a lower-budget Julia Roberts.

Bullock plays a partying, wisecracking New Yorker whose drinking has gotten so out of hand she ruins sister Elizabeth Perkins' wedding, destroying the wedding cake and stealing the couple's limo. But before she gets very far, she loses control and crashes the limo into a house.

Sentenced to 28 days in rehab in lieu of jail, Bullock finds herself confronting her own demons as well as her fellow addicts. Unlike other Hollywood movies of this ilk, nothing here seems fake or forced. On the other hand, this "girl-next-door-gets-clean-and-sober" trip also tends to gloss over the nitty-gritty aspects of beating addiction.

"Keeping The Faith" — Unreeling like a "$30 million take on the old "A priest, a rabbi and a girl" jokes, "Keeping The Faith" turns out to be an engaging and very funny romance. It also marks the directorial debut of actor Edward Norton, who also plays the Catholic variable in the joke's equation. Ben Stiller is the rabbi and TV's Dharma Jenna Elfman is the girl.

Best buds since grade school, Stiller and Norton are happy in their chosen spiritual careers until Elfman shows up. As the two men struggle with their feelings for her, and her falling in love with one of them, the friendship is tested. Falling in love with Elfman isn't any easier for the rabbi than for the priest because you see, she's not Jewish.

Scripted by a Yale buddy of Norton's, Stuart Blumberg, the movie's comic cup runneth over with terrific performances, clever one-liners and more than a few funny (though often predictable) sight gags.

"Where the Money Is" — Apart from a terrific performance by Paul Newman and the apparent appeal of Linda Fiorentino in a nurse's uniform, this crime caper is decidedly third-rate. Newman is Henry Manning, a career criminal who is playing possum so he can be shifted out of jail to a nursing home. Fiorentino is the nurse who's onto his con.

Despite spending half the movie in a wheelchair, Newman proves he's still got chops. But that also means Fiorentino has to carry most of the film. She's got chops for sure, but here the script as well as director Marek Kanievska let her down. Her usual tough but sexy ennui doesn't suit her character's presumed desperation. Once hubby Wayne (a definitely dulled-out Dermot Mulroney) joins the gang, the plotline goes from bad to worse. After a while, you don't care whether they pull off the big heist.

"Judy Berlin" — Lyrical but painfully slow, this bittersweet paean to life in the suburbs of Long Island also features the last film work of the very talented Madeline Kahn.

Set on the second day of a new school year in a town called Babylon, it's obvious that the principal (Bob Dishy) has grown out of love with his wife (Kahn). But his troubles don't stop there. He's also got senior staff member Sue Berlin (Barbara Barrie) desperate for him and his thirtysomething son David (Aaron Harnick) is back home after failing as a filmmaker. When David meets Berlin's estranged daughter Judy ("The Sopranos'" Edie Falco) weird things start to happen. Not the least of which is a total eclipse of the sun which doesn't go away.

First-time writer-director Eric Mendelsohn deserves credit for his lack of cynicism and refusal to resort to the usual cheap shots at suburbia, but the film's pacing is a killer, moving so slowly at times you want to scream.

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