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DVD Review: Case 39

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As I sat there, half-comatose, my mind feeling even more numb than it usually does after the fifth Pinnacle and Diet, a baffling question popped into my head: “Does Renée Zellweger really know how to act?” This lone, inner-query was soon followed by another uncertainty: “Would she be able to pull off a part if she didn’t get to utilize that pouty, ‘Did someone just let one after eating prime rib’ look that she always seems to rely on?”

Granted, I loved her in Bridget Jones’s Diary and Down With Love (yes, someone actually liked that one). Hell, she even turned in a fairly nice performance in that god-awful Texas Chainsaw Massacre project. Why, there are even unconfirmed rumors that she was wowing audiences away in several, more “mainstream” titles — such as that thing with Tom Cruise that had the most annoying Bruce Springsteen song to-date on its overplayed soundtrack.

But then there’s Case 39. Honestly, it’s easy to see why this one sat on the shelf for several years before Paramount decided to slip it onto home video (and it did, too: it was completed in 2007). It’s also easy to determine why the movie was awarded the dubious honor of multiple reshoots during its production history: audiences kept telling the filmmakers that their movie sucked. Alas, instead of simply scrapping the money waster altogether, they kept trying to fix it like a thrifty employer would with a cheap piece of office furniture from Walmart.

The flick starts out decently enough (in a slow, low-budget sort of way, of course) with an overtaxed social worker (Ms. Pouty Face) checking up on a strange family who have reportedly been ignoring their creepy daughter (played by creepy child star Jodelle Ferland). After about an hour and a half of trite, meaningless banter — wherein we establish supporting actors Bradley Cooper (who was still nothing more than a fairly-recognized television actor when this was filmed) and Ian McShane (who, I confess, was the reason I wanted to see this in the first place; love me some Lovejoy!) — our heroine saves the creepy kid from the clutches of her parents when the attempt to roast her in the kitchen oven.

The now foster (but still creepy) kid convinces Renée to adopt her. Which she does, thus disabling the functionality of her character. But wait, there’s a reason to all this, you see: the creepy kid is actually some sort of demon thingy (oh, spoiler, by the way) which likes to kill people via hallucinations and whatnot. A fellow foster kid bludgeons his parents to death. Bradley Cooper battles a swarm of hornets that buzz out of his ear (another spoiler there, kids). And so on and so forth.

Look, just skip it.

Several years after the fact, Case 39 hits home video (the film had a limited US theatrical run in 2010 prior) on DVD and Blu-ray from Paramount Home Video. In the case (heh) of the Standard-Definition release, Paramount gives the lackluster movie a decent anamorphic transfer, which preserves the movie’s unnecessary 2.35:1 scope ratio. The movie has a bit of a grey/blue-ish cast to it at times (after all, it is a “supernatural thriller” — or “horror flick,” as we used to say), but the color palate and contrast remain on-par with most other semi-recent budget-movies released on SD-DVD (or “good,” if you will).

Sound-wise, Case 39 boasts a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that reserves very little material for the rear speakers — which is fine, really, since all of the auditory action that comes out of the front speakers isn’t worth listening to anyway! Additional DD 5.1 soundtracks are available in Spanish and French, and optional subtitles are provided in English (SDH), Spanish and French.

Special features for Paramount’s DVD release of Case 39 include several uninspiring making-of and/or behind-the-scenes featurettes and a half-an-hour’s worth of deleted scenes (which include a better death scene for Lovejoy and an alternate ending with the poutiest of pouty faces Renée has ever pulled off).

It’s supposed to be scary — at least, that’s what you’ll get from looking at the back of the box. If you look at the front of the case, however, you will note that it reads “Some cases should never be opened.” As it turns out, that’s not actually a tagline, but a stern warning to anyone that’s thinking about renting Case 39: a movie that has a creepy demon-kid, a pouty-faced heroine, a shirtless Bradley Cooper, Lovejoy, and not much else.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.