Case 39 review

Delayed for two years on its journey to big screen, Glen catches a screening of Case 39. Did it deserve a better fate?

If you’re not seen the trailer for Case 39, and want to watch the film cold, then it’s probably best you skip the review. We don’t give away anything that the trailer doesn’t, though…

Pedophobia is a theme that has been explored a number of times in movies throughout the year and Case 39 is the latest is the latest to tackle the subject.

Snowed under child services worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) is given a 39th case to deal with by her boss Wayne, played by Hustle’s Adrian Lester. The case regards the apparent poor treatment of a young girl named Lillith (Jodelle Ferland) at the hands of her parents. Emily fights to have the girl removed from her parents custardy, but struggles without the sufficient evidence.

Following a phone call from the distressed girl, Emily calls upon her contact in the police department, Detective Mike Barron (Ian McShane), and interrupts the parent’s plans to kill their daughter.

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With her parents sectioned, Lillith is taken in by Emily and it turns out that she’s not as innocent as she appears.

All of the plot points covered above are shown in the trailer of the film that does its best to give away some of the film’s key moments. This weakens the impact of some of the set pieces considerably.

It’s hard to pick particular fault with any of the performances, as all involved are perfectly fine and perform to a level as you’d expect, but it’s hard to imagine the draw of such material for names such as Renée Zellweger and Ian McShane. Pre-Hangover Bradley Cooper features as Zellweger’s psychologist love interest and you could possibly question the appeal this would hold, but looking at his roles up to the point when this started filming, you can kind of understand.

Jodelle Ferland is fantastic as Lillith. In fact, she’s by far the best thing about the film. From innocent and sweet to menacing, she effectively handles a number of characteristics to make her character memorable. Even if she adopts a weird shaky head thing during a scene where she’s being interviewed by Bradley Cooper’s character, there’s little to fault with her performance and she’s clearly a performer of considerable talent.

Pandorum director Christian Alvart does a decent job with the material. There are moments when some of the shots seem superfluous to requirements but, for the most part, the film achieves what it sets out to. There’s a decent sense of tension that runs throughout the film and there are a few jumpy moments. These tend to be a result of being startled as opposed to being scared, but they work well and are effective in keeping the viewer on edge throughout the film. Well, it did for me, but I’m quite jumpy.

All of the positive aspects of the film are almost undone when a conscious decision appears to have been made to turn in to something a bit ridiculous. The film could be picked apart if you focus on some of the more ridiculous aspects, but that would involve getting heavily into spoiler territory, which is something that I’m reluctant to do as, despite the amount of information that was revealed in the trailer, there were still a few surprises in the film for me.

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Case 39 was originally scheduled for release over two years ago but has been the subject of a number of delays. When you look at the releases from Paramount since Case 39‘s proposed release date, you can understand why it was delayed in this manner. Sure, Paramount has released some nonsense since 2008 but, for the most part, the films they have released have turned in a decent profit, with the exception of Dance Flick and The Love Guru.

Despite the delays and reception it has received, it’s a considerably better film than The Unborn and Orphan, both of which are thematically similar to Case 39 and inexplicably took around $75 million each at the box office. They were both subject to a similar level of the critical mauling that Case 39 has received, so, by that reckoning, you could assume that Case 39 will achieve similar numbers. Sadly, I don’t think that will be the case.

It’s not a terrible film, by any means; it’s just not a particularly good one. If what you’re after is a fairly average film with a few scares, you could do much worse than Case 39. Given that there are a number of decent movies currently in the cinema it’s probably best to wait for DVD, though.


3 out of 5