I passed over Case 39 several times at the video store recently, absolutely sure that I wasn't going to like it. A thriller with Renee Zellweger as the lead sounds like a dime a dozen to me and like it couldn't bring anything new to the table. But believe it or not, I didn't hate it. It's certainly not the best thing I've seen in a while, but good enough to pretty well accomplish what it sets out to do.
You will find no Bridget Jones in this plot: Zellweger is Emily, your typical overwhelmed social worker who becomes involved in the case of young Lily, who fears that her parents wish her harm. After catching said parents in the act of taping Lily shut in the oven, Emily takes the tyke into her own home only to find out that maybe her parents weren't so crazy for wanting Lily dead after all.
The movie was a bit of a surprise in terms of where they took the story. It lags a bit during the first hour or so while setting up the real story that will dominate the rest of the film, but overall keeps you interested and keeps you guessing at just what is going on with this kid. Somehow she is able to cause very violent things to happen to other people, but she doesn't really do anything. But she's responsible. So here comes the question of just "what kind of evil is she?" You can either watch the movie yourself or read ahead to the end of my review, I don't care.
Fantastic little child actress right here. You'd be hard-pressed to find me an evil kid film where the casting of the devil spawn wasn't spot on. Everything I've seen from The Omen to Orphan has always had some amazingly big talent in very tiny packages. The scene where Lily has a quite uncomfortable therapy session with Emily's sort-of BF, Doug, is the first time we're informed of just how evil this evil child is, and I must say, I was kinda blown away at how creepily adult she sounded and acted. So then in the rest of the movie when she's trying to be all sweet and stuff, she only comes off as uber-creepy which is always awesome.
The only thing I had a real problem with was Lily's overall intentions or goals. As usual, I'm going to spoil the ending now, so if that really pisses you off, you should stop reading.
So Lily is described by her father as being not really possessed, but I guess the actual incarnation of a demon who feeds on the souls of good people. Or something. Anyway, apparently she finds a nice family to live with, only to kill off everybody they know one by one until they go all crazy and try to kill her and she has to find a new family. I don't know who came up with that plan, but there are a few kinks there they need to work out.
Hokay, so she's a demon. She can do whatever the fuck she wants. You're telling me that she cares about brushing each other's hair and eating ice cream after school? It's just not believable. Remember Dark Water, where the ghost girl was all about wanting a mommy or some other stupid shit? That's what this is like, and for real, THAT'S LAME. She has no diabolical plan in mind other than to find someone who will love her and take care of her. Which makes her a rather idiotic demon when you think about it because if that's all she wanted, then why would she kill all those people her parents loved and make them eventually want to kill her? The whole thing does not make sense, or not any real sense that I can work out right now.
The ending is what you want to happen but with only a few good scenes to its name, Case 39 and its anticlimactic climax leaves you with a "Eh, okay, it's over. What's for dinner?" feeling. Not as horrible as originally suspected, but at the same time nothing to go crazy over.