Headbanded Emily Jenkins gets the titular case plopped on her desk, so she duly investigates a couple who she suspects have been mistreating their 10-year-old daughter Lillith (Jodelle Ferland). She scrambles to the couple's creepy house along with boss Ian McShane (growling an otherworldly accent as yet unidentified by literature or science), just as the parents are about to roast li’l Lill in the oven -- seriously, this scene is hilarious. Zellweger and McShane lay waste to moody-mom and bad-dad’s furniture and faces whilst rescuing the half-baked moppet. (McShane, trying out too-late for a role in The Expendables, literally dropkicks the mother into a table and indents a fridge with the father’s head - and McShane’s about 110 years-old! The Oscar for Best Supporting Sexagenarian Shit-Fit is his for the taking).
Be honest, does my hair look good like this?
Soppy ol' Emily, ditching the headband, gets to adopt Lillith and live happily... never after? ‘Cause, ah, you see, maybe there’s more to case 39 than our Zeéeeee bargained on (as we’ve only sat through half of the film's 109 minutes). Is Lillith actually as sweet and innocent as everybody initially thought? Could she be the devil with a dollhouse? If you haven’t guessed what’s happening by this point then you haven’t been paying attention to the headband theory. (Hair up = phew, safe; hair down = argh, get that spawn of Beelzebub off my property, post haste!)
Renée keeps the family dinner warm in Case 39
Emily soon forgets about cases 1 through 38 (all other kids in peril can obviously go take a jump) to do everything in her power to Get To The Bottom Of All This. There are a handful of amusing scenes along the way, and more than a few howlers peppering the plot; a fun so-bad-it's-good time’s almost to be had. If you're willing, try a few pre-movie drinks. One scene where Lillith asks a headbanded Zeéeeee if she could brush her hair had me shouting, 'Yes! For the love of God, yes! Take that headband away and brush her hair!'
Bradley Copper responds to Renée putting the Chicago soundtrack on.
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There’s a naked Bradley Cooper as Zeéeeee's beefcake beau, who has his bath time royally ruined by a particularly pressing wasp problem; he then buzzes off halfway into the film (the script for The Hangover must have arrived.) Although the scene where Ferland is interviewed by Cooper, and acts him and anyone else (in this scene and others) right off the screen, is genuinely creepy. Renée just puts on a tight face and stands by looking awkward. In a headband.
Renée is driven to dispair by her missing headband.
The editing may have been carried out by a drunken Edward Scissorhands, and the pace is defined by accident rather than design. Case 39 is more eventful than Joshua, but doesn’t have the daft-but-nifty twist or fun factor of Orphan - two other recent Is My Kid Satan's Spawn? genre entries. It’s so close to being a new trash gem, but, despite a grab-bag of chucklesome moments early on, it wimps out at the last minute with a wet whimper. Near the end Renée says, “You know, none of this should ever have happened!” Oh Zells Bells - you took the words right out of my mouth.
*The film was completed in 2006 but has only now seen the light of day, after an ever-shifting release date pattern that took in fifteen date changes over three countries.
Case 39 is in theaters now.