×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Case 39

This ludicrous outing takes its psycho-satanic babble much too seriously.

With:
Emily Jenkins - Renee Zellweger Lilith Sullivan - Jodelle Ferland Det. Barron - Ian McShane Doug - Bradley Cooper

The bastard offspring of “The Bad Seed,” “The Omen” and “Orphan,” homicidal-tyke thriller “Case 39” proves that this horror subgenre’s gene pool is definitely starting to thin out. Starring Renee Zellweger as an overzealous social worker who invites a demonic 10-year-old cutie pie into her own home, this ludicrous outing from helmer Christian Alvart (“Pandorum”) and scribe Ray Wright (“The Crazies”) takes its psycho-satanic babble much too seriously, and should elicit more laughs than frights during its long-delayed U.S. theatrical run. Already released in several foreign territories, Paramount’s problem child will find adequate foster care on cable and homevid.

Shot in 2006 and withheld from domestic release for more than two years, pic hit various overseas markets in 2009 and recently went straight to DVD in France, Italy and Japan. (Pic grossed more than $3 million in Mexico and Spain, and Paramount will likely target Hispanic auds Stateside, where it will be released under the Paramount Vantage label.) While such delays aren’t entirely uncommon for certain studio-backed B-titles, such an extended waiting period doesn’t augur well, and it takes only a few reels to see what the problem is.

When child-services specialist Emily (Zellweger) investigates her latest subject, the pale-faced, aptly named Lilith (Jodelle Ferland), she’s immediately drawn to the child’s ghostly presence and sense of sheltered innocence. On a home visit to meet the girl’s parents (Callum Keith Rennie, Kerry O’Malley), Emily believes she’s stumbled upon a clear-cut case of child abuse, and her suspicions are confirmed a few nights later when she barges into the house and finds them trying to stuff poor little Lilith into the oven.

With the help of a child psychologist (Bradley Cooper, pre-“The Hangover”) and a local cop (Ian McShane, post-“Deadwood”), Emily decides to take charge of Lilith herself. While such actions are already professionally dubious, they soon prove to be more dangerous than she imagined: Not only is Lilith getting bad grades in school, but it turns out she likes to call people on the telephone and push them to commit gruesome acts of murder or suicide. She also has something to do with Satan, though it’s never really clear what that is.

While pic has at least one decent idea in transforming a tale of battered children into that of battered parents, the originality buck stops there. Between Alvart’s pedestrian handling of the five or six requisite death scenes and Michl Britsch’s ineffective score, the suspense mostly rides on whether Lilith will actually seem evil enough when she says things like, “I’ll tell you what scares me if you tell me what scares you.”

Well, nobody’s getting scared anytime soon, despite tyro horror star Ferland’s (“Silent Hill,” “Seed”) occasionally convincing turn in a role that often requires her to just stare for a long time at the other cast members. Faring slightly worse is Zellweger as a character who claims she’s “just not mom material” but then inexplicably lobbies to take custody of Lilith, only to try and give her back when she doesn’t turn out to be the kind of kid she hoped for.

Pic was filmed on location in Vancouver, and its mood is somewhat enhanced by the eerie, Gothic-style homes and interiors of production designer John Willet (“Final Destination”). In this “Case,” the devil is in the details but nowhere else.

Popular on Variety

Case 39

Production: A Paramount Vantage release of a Misher Films/Anonymous Content production. Produced by Steve Golin, Kevin Misher. Co-producers, Lisa Bruce, Alix Madigan. Directed by Christian Alvart. Screenplay, Ray Wright.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Hagen Bogdanski; editor, Mark Goldblatt; music, Michl Britsch; production designer, John Willett; costume designer, Monique Prudhomme; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Darren Brisker; supervising sound editor, Ron Eng; re-recording mixers, Gary Summers, Dan Leahy; visual effects supervisor, Chris Watts; assistant director, Patrice Leung; casting, Randi Hiller, Sarah Halley Finn. Reviewed on DVD, Paris, Sept 29, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Emily Jenkins - Renee Zellweger Lilith Sullivan - Jodelle Ferland Det. Barron - Ian McShane Doug - Bradley CooperWith: Callum Keith Rennie, Kerry O'Malley, Adrian Lester, Kerry O'Malley, Cynthia Stevenson, Alexander Conti, Philip Cabrita.

More Film

  • Joker

    Why 'Joker' Is About All of Us (Column)

    Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Rules International Box Office With $117 Million

    Though Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stumbled at the domestic box office, the Angelina Jolie-led sequel enjoyed a far stronger start overseas. The follow-up to 2014’s fantasy adventure inspired by the “Sleeping Beauty” villain took off with $117 million from 56 international markets. In North America, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted with a meager $36 [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Dominates With Soft $36 Million

    Five years after Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts. Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s fantasy adventure based on the “Sleeping Beauty” sorceress, flew lower than the original and debuted to a disappointing $36 million from 2,790 [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Film Republic Adds Further Sales for

    Film Republic Inks Further Deals for 'God of the Piano' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sales agent Film Republic has closed further territory sales on “God of the Piano.” Film Movement previously picked up North American rights to the film, as reported exclusively by Variety. Mont Blanc Cinema has taken the rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Limelight Distribution is looking after the Australian and New Zealand releases, Hualu [...]

  • ‘Bears Famous Invasion’s Lorenzo Mattotti Brings

    Lorenzo Mattotti on MIA Title ‘Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily’

    Illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti is no stranger to film festivals. The artist – a long-time New Yorker cover artist and onetime Lou Reed and Michelangelo Antonioni collaborator – has designed posters for past editions of Venice and Cannes, and has contributed to films that played in Toronto and Rome. This year, however, he experienced the festival [...]

  • Dreamworks Abominable

    'Abominable' Release in Malaysia Abandoned

    Plans to release the increasingly controversial Chinese-U.S. co-produced animation film “Abominable” in Malaysia have been dropped after the distributor said that it would not be cut to cater to political sensitivities. The film includes a scene which depicts a map showing the South China Sea and the so called “nine-dash line” that China uses to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content