As Joe and Stephanie evolve from rivalry to cooperation in trying to solve the crime of which he stands accused, she gains the protection of formidable fellow bondsman Ranger (Daniel Sunjata). Ranger teaches her how to pick a lock and shoot the bad guys where it counts.

She also encounters representative denizens of the wrong side of town, most prominently John Leguizamo as gym owner Jimmy Alpha and Sherri Shepherd as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Lula. (How the latter came to share the name of the former president of Brazil is anyone’s guess.)

Director Julie Anne Robinson’s slack adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s 1994 bestseller – the first in a series of 18 mystery novels revolving around Stephanie’s character – tries to get by on jauntiness but fails to charm.

In part, that’s due to the mild skewering of the very Catholic milieu of Stephanie’s working-class background, an environment where Marian statues and crucifixes abound and where Stephanie’s female relatives greet every item of bad news by blessing themselves. Stephanie’s favorite among these off-handedly pious distaff kin is her breezily eccentric Grandma Mazur (Debbie Reynolds, channeling – so it seems – the late Ruth Gordon circa “Rosemary’s Baby” or “Harold and Maude”).

An attempt to capitalize on sexual tension – Stephanie still carries a torch for Joe and waxes eloquent in praise of Ranger’s physique — and such gags as an elderly, devil-may-care exhibitionist whom the novice bounty hunter takes into custody are further deficits.

On the qualified upside, an incidental character’s reckless foray into blasphemy draws instant, albeit spectacularly violent, retribution.

The film contains some action violence, brief rear and partial nudity, an instance of blasphemy and at least 20 uses of profanity, much sexual humor, frequent crude and crass language and a couple of obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.