October 9, 2010

Movie Review: Case 39

case392_largeThis is one of those movies that was made a long time ago and then was left sitting on a shelf. It is similar to "development hell" except the work ha already been done. Case 39 was a victim of shelf hell as the executives who green lit the project left the studio with the film falling between the cracks as the new regime gave little thought as to what to do with it. Well, it is finally here and ready for you to see it. I guess the big remaining question is whether or not it has been worth the wait. I cannot really say that it is, but it is  fun, creepy B-movie that genre fans should get some enjoyment out of.

Case 39 began production way back in 2006 and was finished in 2007 with the intention of releasing in208, then the regime change came and the film sat there. I did see a theatrical run in Mexico and parts of Europe where it saw modest success. I guess this modes success finally got the attention of the studio and it got its release State-side just a couple of weeks back.

The movie stars Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper, and even if you didn't know what it was made it is easy to tell it was not recent based on Cooper's performance. You see, he has gone from this type of supporting role to more of a leading man type roles. It is not unlike Daniel Craig in Invasion, another film which sat around for awhile before reaching the big screen.


Case 39 is another in a long line of creepy kid films, a sub-genre which saw a great example last year in Orphan. Now, if Zellweger's Emily Jenkins had watched that movie she probably would not have been put into this situation, not to mention she probably would have found herself another line of work. Alas, one thing you can always be assured of (well, generally speaking) is that each movie universe is self-contained and none of the characters will be aware of any other movie.

One of the things that helps make this movie work as well as it does is that it does not get bogged down in explanations. It takes little time to get right down to business and then it goes right for the gusto. At no point do our characters get stuck researching what is happening for an explanation. Sure, there are some questions asked and answers given, but they are treated more like side notes to fill some time between creepy moments.

Emily is a social worker who is overloaded with 38 cases when she is given another, the titular case 39. It involves a sweet young girl named Lilith and her uncooperative and creepy family. It seems they have told her they are going to send her to hell. This doesn't sit well with our crusading social worker. She calls in a favor with a local detective (played by a tired looking Ian McShane) and they are able to save the girl just before she gets broiled in the oven just used to make dinner.


The case so touches Emily that she takes custody of young Lilith. Things are going well until people around her start dying. This is when Emily comes to the realization of what Lilith's family was trying to do and what she may need to do. You see, there is something wrong with Lilith and I bet you will never guess what it is.

To be certain, this is not a good movie and it has an overwhelmingly formulaic feel to it. I did like some of the creepier moments and the chase through the rain and the interaction between Bradley Cooper's psychiatrist and Lilith (Jodelle Ferland). There is enough here to keep you involved but not enough to keep you interested. It is not the sort of movie that you will remember for long. It is sort of cinematic junk food for the genre fan, it satiates you temporarily until the next best thing comes around.

Christian Alvart directed them film. He is a decent director and it is funny to note that the film he made after this has already been through theaters and is on home video (Pandorum). The screenplay was written by Ray Wright and it has a few moments but could have used some fleshing out. I admire the speed it employs to get where it needs to go, but it just lacks overall substance.

Mildly Recommended.

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