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‘Sunshine Cleaning’ merely OK

Blessed with the same porcelain skin, the same plucky confidence, the same dexterity with comedy and drama – Amy Adams and Emily Blunt were born to play sisters.

It’s a tiny tragedy that destiny arrives in the form of “Sunshine Cleaning,” a boring, choppy dramedy that smacks of a Sundance also-ran.

With its title, its sun-blanched New Mexico setting and a cast featuring both a conversion van and constant curmudgeon Alan Arkin, the movie tries to invoke the prickly charm of “Little Miss Sunshine.”

It doesn’t fail so much as it falls asleep halfway through when it realizes it’s got nothing going on.

A little actress worship, then, to lift the spirits.

First, Adams: green-eyed, red-haired, adorable, the best part of 1999’s beauty pageant mockumentary “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” forgiven for “Cruel Intentions 2,” endorsed by Spielberg in “Catch Me If You Can,” revelatory as a pregnant rural pixie in “Junebug” (the best movie of 2005), box-office goddess as a neo-Disney princess in “Enchanted.”

Blunt: blue-eyed brunette, feline-faced, British, still riding a wave of cred from “The Devil Wears Prada,” in which she strutted and seethed as Meryl Streep’s petulant assistant.

“I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight!” her character cried.

How nice for them to find a movie with two female lead characters, a female director (Christine Jeffs, who did the decent Plath biopic “Sylvia”) and a rookie female screenwriter, Megan Holley.

How deflating that it leads nowhere.

Adams is Rose, a maid. Blunt is Norah, a burnout. Rose, who was the head cheerleader in high school, must face the occasional indignity of cleaning the McMansions of former classmates, who regard her with a mix of pity and charity. Norah sleeps. The sisters’ lives have dead-ended.

When Rose’s young son starts acting up at school, she decides to look for a private school where his unconventional talents can flourish. Private schools cost money, though. To boost her income, Rose enters the expanding, lucrative market of crime-scene cleanup and entices Norah to join her.

But there are no inward or outward journeys in this movie. The sisters don’t really get closer. They don’t reconcile the lingering grief from their mother’s premature death or learn what really goes on in their father’s head. They don’t get sucked into a thrilling criminal case.

No one learns anything, other than how to properly dispose of a blood-stained mattress.

“Sunshine Cleaning” should’ve been a madcap comedy of the macabre, or a tangled yarn about the metaphorical biohazards of living life at the margins. Instead, it shoots for the middle and ends up being just that: middling.

For times and locations, see page 6.



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