Combustible Celluloid
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With: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie, Adrian Lester, Kerry O'Malley, Cynthia Stevenson, Alexander Conti, Philip Cabrita, Vanesa Tomasino, Mary Black, Domenico D'Ambrosio, Benita Ha, J. Winston Carroll
Written by: Ray Wright
Directed by: Christian Alvart
MPAA Rating: R for violence and terror including disturbing images
Running Time: 109
Date: 08/13/2009

Case 39 (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Bad Kid

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Completed in 2007, Case 39 sat around for a long time before Paramount unceremoniously dumped it in theaters in 2010; in the meantime, director Christian Alvart went on to make the effectively moody Pandorum, but this movie is a dud.

Stressed social worker Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) is assigned one more case in addition to the 38 she already has, a young girl named Lilith (Jodelle Ferland). Emily visits the home and discovers signs that the girl's parents are showing signs of abuse. Emily decides to take in the girl until a good foster home can be found, but unfortunately, everyone around Emily begins dying, starting with her psychologist friend Doug (Bradley Cooper). Emily starts to believe that maybe the child is the problem, and not her parents. Can she get anyone to believe her before it's too late?

The "demon child" subgenre of horror movies is an old one, stretching from The Bad Seed to The Omen to the recent Orphan, and Case 39 doesn't have anything fresh to add. In these movies the horror springs from the concept that the purest and most innocent of all creatures -- a child -- can harbor a murderous evil. But Case 39 doesn't seem to understand this; there's no real emotional draw to the characters, and they don't seem connected to one another. Alvart counts on jump-shocks and sudden noises for his scary scenes, and none of it works very well. The movie never digs deeper into its premise. The acting and production values are fine, however.

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