Case 39 Review
By Rich Cline
The truth is this: you can never have too many evil child thrillers, especially when they star Oscar-winning actresses. This ramshackle movie features a preposterous plot, dodgy direction and clunky editing, and yet it's great fun to watch the actors squirm with fear.
Emily (Zellweger) is a social worker barely keeping up with 38 cases when her boss (Lester) hands her one more. It centres on 10-year-old Lily (Ferland), whose parents (Rennie and O'Malley) might be abusing her. Surely when they lock her in an oven and switch on the heat, something is wrong. Emily rescues Lily and takes her in, turning to two friends for help: a child counsellor (Cooper) and a cop (McShane). The cop is important because something is clearly not right with Lily.
This summer's other beastly youngster yarn, Orphan, is like an overserious prologue to this nutty film. Screenwriter Wright gleefully throws all manner of chaos into the story, which Alvart directs with fairly obvious references to everything from Alfred Hitchcock to Stephen King. The problem is that it doesn't flow very smoothly; Alvart uses plenty of slick visual trickery but never develops a consistent style, while the story lurches and jumps along its rickety path.
Fortunately, none of that affects our enjoyment as it drifts way over the top.
After a promising start, in which Zellweger creates an intriguingly brittle character, she pretty much just has to hold on for the ride until the frantic finale. Much scrunchy-faced screaming ensues, which she's rather good at. While both Cooper and McShane provide solid support in roles that require them to casually drop major plot points into their dialog as if they're offhanded asides.
And if it's the adorable monster you're interested in, they don't get much better than Ferland's creepy Lily, who's just a little too smart for her own good and does even the most horrific things with a little girl's charm. All of this combines into a film that's relentlessly creepy, like The Omen crossed with a vintage Twilight Zone episode. And who cares how loopy it gets when the filmmakers leave no scary element untouched, from nasty insects to rabid dogs by way of both fire and water.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 1st October 2010
Box Office Worldwide: $29M
Distributed by: Paramount Studios
Production compaines: Paramount Vantage, Misher Films, Anonymous Content, Case 39 Productions
Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 58
Cast & Crew
Starring: Renée Zellweger as Emily Jenkins, Jodelle Ferland as Lillith Sullivan, Ian McShane as Detective Mike Barron, Kerry O'Malley as Margaret Sullivan, Callum Keith Rennie as Edward Sullivan, Bradley Cooper as Douglas J. Ames, Adrian Lester as Wayne, Cynthia Stevenson as Nancy, Alexander Conti as Diego, Philip Cabrita as Javier, Vanesa Tomasino as Javier's Wife, Mary Black as Custody Judge, Domenico D'Ambrosio as Domenico D'Ambrosio, Benita Ha as Therapist, J. Winston Carroll as Judge, Michael Bean as Co-Worker, Lesley Ewen as Co-Worker, David Patrick Green as Chief Psychiatrist, Dee Jay Jackson as Bus Driver, Taya Calicetto as Young Emily, Alisen Down as Emily's Mother, Darryl Quon as Inmate, Suzanne Bastien as Nurse, Jane Braithwaite as Nurse, Colin Lawrence as Police Sergeant, Dagmar Midcap as News Anchor, Fran Gebhard as Coordinator, Bill Mondy as Interviewer, Andrew Airlie as Doctor, Sarah-Jane Redmond as Barron's Wife, Charles Zuckermann as Demon Person, Yvonne Valdez as Mrs. Lynch, Paul Duchart as Priest, Daniel Bacon as Businessperson, Darren E. Scott as Young Cop, Dalias Blake as Detention Center Cop, Phillip Mitchell as Lead Guard, Camille Atebe as New Caseworker (uncredited), Linden Banks as Angry Man (uncredited), Georgia Craig as Denise (uncredited), Terence Dament as Bailiff (uncredited), Jillian Fargey as Foster Mom (uncredited), Ryan Harder as Foster Brother (uncredited), Adrian Hough as Man in Suit (uncredited), Tiffany Lyndall-Knight as Darla - Teacher (uncredited), Hal Myshrall as Gay Adoptive Parent (uncredited), Kate Robbins as Supervisor (uncredited), Michael Ryan as Foster Dad (uncredited), Sadie as Terror Dog (uncredited), Norm Sherry as Principal (uncredited), Cindy Sungu as Mia - Girl in Classroom (uncredited), John Andrew Vaas as Inmate (uncredited), Ian Wallace as Lunatic (uncredited), Ian A. Wallace as Bald Lunatic (uncredited), Danny Wattley as Detention Center Cop (uncredited), Fulvio Cecere as Fire Marshall