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Case 39

Voice in the Dark (theater)

LaRae Meadows

October 15, 2010

Case 39 is the perfect example of how to annoy, aggravate, and incense an audience to the point that its members intend to hunt down all involved and reenact the film using the filmmakers as props in the death scenes.

When the selfless, loving, over-worked social worker reached out to a girl in danger, she didn’t know she was reaching out to the danger as well. Case 39 is the perfect example of how to annoy, aggravate, and incense an audience to the point that its members intend to hunt down all involved and reenact the film using the filmmakers as props in the death scenes.

Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) is juggling the cases of thirty-eight families when her boss Wayne (Adrian Lester) dumps a thirty-ninth case on her. Someone suspects that Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), the only child in the Sullivan family, is being abused by her parents Edward (Callum Keith Rennie) and Margaret (Kerry O’Malley). Emily finds reason to remove the child. Not finding a suitable placement, she brings Lillith into her home. She doesn’t know she isn’t just bringing a little girl but a big problem.

Case 39 succeeds only in its ability to be a complete and utter failure. Not a single aspect of this flick fails to fail: it would be generous to call the writing sub par (the writers could not even be bothered to get the basic facts about foster care correct); the acting is as flat as a pancake run over with a steam roller; the directing may have been done by a baby chimp; and the excellence of the visuals would not even register if measured molecularly.

The dialogue, the plot, and the character interactions seeped such idiocy they could have made an owl roll his eyes. The movie could only be fixed by complete, merciless abandonment, like a puppy left in a box on a freeway divide. I wondered if I could do a better job writing the outline of a plot if I used the Firefox extension StumbleUpon (a program that selects a new website for you to visit based on your predetermined interests) as the direct feeder of plot points, so I decided to experimentally do so. My hypothesis was that StumbleUpon would produce a plot of higher caliber that would be more interesting the average moviegoer. My StumbleUpon plot would go something like this: Amazing domino video for restless legs showed this cat who is going to fuck somebody up as naked women sit in front of a window and discover the web as they go. Case 39’s plot: Selfless social worker in Oregon is distrustful of abusive parents when demon child should have been the true focus of distrust. I believe if anyone recreated this experiment, they would come up with the same conclusion: StumbleUpon produces better, more interesting plots than Case 39’s writer Ray Wright.

Until I see the results of genetic testing indicating otherwise, I will stay convinced that Christian Alvart, director of Case 39, is a chimpanzee or other hairy primate. It is the only conclusion that I can draw based on the quality of his direction, especially when it comes to acting and visuals.

Keeping “pace” with Wright is the acting team, captained by Renée Zellweger. Zellweger’s acting efforts extend to ten percent of her face. The rest of her either couldn’t be bothered to show up to work, or Zellweger couldn’t be bothered to do anything with it. For some reason Zellweger thought acting only using her lips was sufficient. By lips I don’t mean voice, tone, verbal expression; I mean just lips. She presses them together, smiles with them, and pulls them apart, but because they do not seem connected to the rest of her face or her body language, this comes across a minimalist effort. Zellweger is just the queen bee of this thespian nest. Except for Jodelle Ferland, who was sufficiently “creepifying” and shiver-inducing, the acting team was just varying levels of horrendous.

The only saving grace for the actors was the shoddy and nearly unintelligible camera work. The shots bounced and jiggled like a Jell-o cube on the stomach of a sumo wrestler. Actually, that is not really fair to sumo wrestlers and Jell-o: both are entertaining and one is delicious (which one is really a matter of personal taste). Case 39’s visuals are neither.

I’m sure that people don’t decide to be foster parents based on what they see in movies (at least I hope they don’t). Still, I think it is as important for writers to take as much care to get their facts right about the foster-care system as it would be if they were using medical terminology. It can be appropriate for a movie to stretch the truth a bit, but to ignore the facts of its subject completely brings the validity of the rest of the plot in question. The characters in Case 39 make blatant violations of the law, violations of confidentiality, and violations of ethics. Even those who haven’t spent nearly fifteen years of their lives in or advocating in the foster-care system would know that some of the actions of the child welfare professionals portrayed in this movie are complete and utter hogwash.

The topping on the cake of this failed movie is its vague and frustrating demonology. The ending, in which the demon is revealed physically, is the perfect exemplification of the entire movie: only one area is clear, and the audience is excluded from everything else.

If the lack of acting, plot, and visual stimulation are not enough to turn viewers off, it will become perfectly clear at the movie’s end why removing one’s cuticles is a better decision than seeing Case 39.

LaRae Meadows

LaRae Meadows is bent on investigating important topics, contorting herself to discover new views, and sharing her discoveries. Her dangerous lack of self-preservation makes writing on controversial topics fun for her. She has a background in legislative and policy advocacy for foster children in California and owns a small business.