Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sour Lemons Have Sour Kids

Remember how I justified my recommending The Crush for its one scene featuring Cary Elwes punching a 14-year-old Alicia Silverstone with all the might of Thor? I'm giong to spoil my review of the very mediocre Case 39 with the one reason worth watching it:

The little girl calls Renee Zellwegger Pumpkinhead.

True, it would have been more appropriate if sour lemons were also involved, but it was still enough to make me spit out my pumpkinhead latte.

Quick Plot: Emily (not me) is a dedicated social worker who becomes especially obsessed with her latest case, a 10 year old girl named Lily whose family Not sexually abusive or alcoholic, just creepy and foreboding and oh yeah, the kind of people who decide to end parenting woes by stuffing their weird kid inside a lit oven.

CPS doesn’t generally let that one slip through the cracks.
As Lily’s folks head to the nuthouse, Emily decides to do what any responsible social worker would do and foster the little burn victim herself. All is peachy until another one of Emily’s cases--and a fellow member of Lily’s group therapy sessions--commits a horrendous crime after receiving a phone call...from Emily’s landline!

Case 39 was filmed way back in 2006. For the young ones in the audience, 2006 was apparently a time when every working professional relied on a home phone and answering machine, the latter of which is super useful for establishing character and plot exposition. 
Sort of like how having your lead pick up an alarm clock is really useful for the director to then throw in the jump scare of having the alarm clock RING!

Or having Ian McShane (playing Emily’s detective pal) lean against a window at a crime scene while describing the grisly deed, only for a vicious doberman to leap at said window and snarl, just heard Ian McShane tell a grisly tale and wanted to add an effective punch?

See, Case 39 is THAT kind of film, one where a slipping A-list actress is charged with looking worried while computer generated effects pixelate around her. Despite what many a horror fan may have said, it’s not really awful...just kind of dull. Zellwegger commits to looking confused and helpless with decent skill, while Bradley Cooper and the infinitely more interesting Ian McShane are good enough in supporting roles with (SPOILER ALERT) hilarious death scenes. But the film on a whole iszzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Underwhelming. Not bad enough to sit on a shelf for three years, but ultimately the kind of forgettable material that might better suit late night cable surfing. 
High Points
For the first half hour or so, Case 39 is fairly promising as Lily’s creepy homelife and its effects unravel in front of us. Had the film sustained that strangeness, it may have actually been decent rather than relying on deep-voiced demon talk from a child actor with none of the grand intensity as Orphan’s Isabelle Furhman

Low Points
Let’s face it: Case 39 doesn’t really care about the actual mythology located within itself. We have no real idea why Lily is what she is, how she came to exist in this particular time or place, why she targets who she does, or you know, anything. I don’t need an overly complicated backstory or flashback or extraneous character narrating the tale, but you know, give your own villain something of worth
Lessons Learned
Best way to know that your child is evil? She cuts peas in half with a knife. Even Jerry Seinfeld would find that offensive
In case countless genre films haven’t taught you well enough, let me remind you that when a suspicious character asks you what your biggest fear is, answering truthfully will most likely lead to hornets buzzing out of your orifices

Deep demon voice: Does. Not. Work. Ever.
Eh, Case 39 isn’t the worst thing to come out of a movie theater but there’s little reason to tell you to watch it. As an instant watch, it’s an okay enough time killer that you’ll probably forget ever happened soon after viewing. In terms of its vertically challenged caliber, you’re far better off checking out that OTHER adoption-gone-wrong mainstream hit Orphan, which has far more zest than the tepid and timid Case 39. But hey, somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s someone with a thing for sour-faced blondes, contrived jump scares, and synthesized demon voices just waiting to love this movie. I am no one to judge.


  1. I saw this recently and was not impressed with it... but the non-horror fans I was with seemed to like it.

    Maybe it counts as a kind of 'gateway drug' for horror?

  2. It's a good sleepover-for-14-year-old-girls stepping stone to be sure.

  3. Ian McShane will forever be Lovejoy to me, but still, the guy needs to do more horror. He was made for it. He should be playing Satan in some sort of Angelheart-type movie. The older and craggier he gets, the more I can see him devouring infants for breakfast.

  4. Agreed! Look at that face! Listen to that voice! The guy was MADE for good genre films!