You have to wonder about
the parenting experiences of Hollywood scriptwriters.
After all, how many evil
killer children are really out there? Yet, it is a movie staple with
many films on the subject over the years since little Patty McCormack's
performance in The Bad Seed in the 50s. Hell, Vera
Farmiga has done two movies in the past few years about life with
Case 39 is one of
the better ones of this specialized subgenre - and it also strays from the
pure faith by making the child's evil due to supernatural powers, rather
than straight killing. In fact, Case 39 seems to be somewhat
directly inspired by the classic Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good
However, the sheer ubiquity
of this storyline saps Case 39 of much of its surprise and power.
Long before young Lily (Jodelle Ferland) starts acting up and creating
havoc, I was rather certain this was the direction that the film would
ultimately take, quite simply because she was acting so pure and innocent
while evil swirled around her. I've seen enough movies to have an idea
where that was leading.
The movie has a slightly
slumming A-list cast. Renee Zellweger seems to be enjoying dropping
the high quality and wallowing in trashy fun. Ian McShane can play
this kind of hard-boiled cop in his sleep, but he does it with panache.
Hunk du jour Bradley Cooper actually has a pretty minor supporting
role, though he does get to do a flashy, fun death scene.
Are these actors too good
to be in this movie? Probably. But does their presence give
Case 39 a shot of adrenaline? Definitely.
Zellweger plays Emily, a
very dedicated Child Services rep who is given a new case of 10-year-old
Lily, who appears to be in an abusive home. Despite the angry
surliness of her parents (Callum Keith Rennie and Kerry O'Malley) she can
find no proof - until a panicked phone call from the girl in the middle of
the night allows Emily and her cop friend Det. Barron to catch the parents
literally trying to cook the girl alive in the stove.
The parents are committed
and Lily is getting lost in the foster care system when she convinces Emily
to become her foster mother. Things go well at first, and yet soon
enough disturbing little occurrences seem to escalate and Emily starts to
wonder if this sweet little girl is actually a monster.
Case 39 has been
held up for quite some time before finally getting a release. It was
filmed way back in 2006 - which explains why Cooper agreed to such a small
role - however the studio heads changed and Case 39 was decreed a low
priority. It was supposed to be released in 2008, and then again in
2009, and then in early 2010, before finally getting a brief theatrical run
in October 2010. At that point any buzz it may have had was long
extinguished - in fact, it had already been released to theaters and then on
video in international territories. Now, less than three months after
getting dumped into US theaters it will hit DVD, download and PPV.
Does it deserve this shoddy
release treatment? Probably not. I would guess that studio
politics played as big a part in the delay as the film's quality.
That said, Case 39 is still just a junky thriller. Better made
than many, perhaps, but nothing that will change your life. If you
like horror, then it is a lean, effective and only marginally ludicrous
example of genre. If you are looking for a
fine artistic Renee Zellweger film (and let's face it, that has been a
crapshoot in recent years), then you may want to pull out your old copies of
Jerry Maguire, Cold Mountain, Cinderella Man or Chicago.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: December 19, 2010.