Case 39

27 Oct

Title: Case 39
Year: 2010
Director: Christian Alvart
Writer: Ray Wright
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper
MPAA Rating: R, violence and terror including disturbing images
Runtime: 109 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%


Case 39 was long-delayed, and I don’t think that’s ever a good sign. Originally intended for release in August 2008, the film was released  just last year in some European territories, earlier this year in Latin America, and only about a month ago, on October 1st, in America. So yeah, this is a film that got completed three years ago and is just getting its release, and as I said, that’s never a good sign. So, by these standards, I went into it being rather cautious, and rightfully so.

I say rightfully so because Case 39 was far from good, the plot was totally uninspired and, even worse, the scares were nowhere to be found. And, to be perfectly honest, Renée Zellweger really needs to do something good, and do it now, if she wants to regain some of the credibility she had as a very good and very serious actress, the woman has done nothing decent since Cinderella Man, and that was all of five years ago.

There is one bearable thing, though, and this is maybe one of the two reasons why I’m not going all out and failing it (a bit more on the second reason further down), and that’s that the director, Christian Alvart. I won’t go ahead and say that Mr. Alvart is a good director, because this isn’t a good film and I haven’t seen any other one of his films, but he has a very distinct visual style, this one looking quite retro at times, and I do appreciate a director that at least has a unique vision, beats the many who make mediocre films like this one that look the same.

Anyways, as for the plot, this one is another addition to the demonic-child canon. Ms. Zellweger plays this sort of idealistic social worker, who decides to save a child from a very abusive environment and take her into her own home, only to find out that the child isn’t as innocent as she first though. Jodelle Ferland plays the ten-year-old Lilith, and she’s the other reason why I liked this one, she’s seriously effective in the role, a role for which Chloë Moretz and Isabelle Fuhrman were also considered. But then again those two also ended up doing their not-so-innocent-children films, Isabelle Fuhrman went on to make last year’s Orphan and Chloë Moretz, after rocking in Kick-Ass went on to do Let Me In, which I have insanely high hopes for and will hopefully be the next film I get to see.

Even though I said Ms. Zellweger wasn’t good in this one, and is in one helluva long rough patch, it has to be said that she really isn’t horrible either. It’s just that her role didn’t demand anything good from her because the film stuck to the same overused conventions these films have employed for decades. And so she played the well-meaning Emily with the same set of skills that so many average actresses have displayed before her, and this is a woman that we know can be terrifically good, and even though she hasn’t been at the top of her game for a half a decade, it still pains you to see her be as confined as she is in this one.

All in all Case 39 is a huge disappointment. Ray Wright, who also wrote this year’s far better scarefest The Crazies, started up by setting this one up really nicely, and then it became more and more unoriginal and predictable, getting to the point where you as an audience member are infinitely smarter than every single character on screen. In horror flicks you are always smarter than some, or even many of the characters, but there’s always at least one person who you think is being intelligent, or at the very least rational, about the situation, but not in Case 39, everyone here is rather dumb, and it frustrates you. And though Ms. Zellweger tries hard to make Emily seem real and make us feel for her, she simply doesn’t have the material to make it all work out for her, and we are left with a really mediocre film, that would have been better off as straight-to-DVD.

Grade: C


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