Emily (Renee Zellweger) is a social worker barely keeping up with 38 cases when her boss (Adrian Lester) hands her one more. It seems that 10-year-old Lily (Jodelle Ferland), might be being abused by her parents (Callum Keith Rennie and Kerry O'Malley).
Surely when they lock her in an oven and switch on the heat, something
is wrong. Emily rescues Lily and takes her in, turning to two friends
for help: Doug (Bradley Cooper) a child psychologist. and (Ian McShane) a grizzled detective. They both realize that something is clearly not right with Lily.
Screenwriter Ray Wright
throws all manner of chaos into the story, which Christian Alvart
directs with fairly obvious references to everything from Alfred
Hitchcock to Stephen King. The problem is that it doesn't flow very
smoothly; Alvart uses plenty of slick visual trickery but never develops
a consistent style, while the story lurches and jumps along its rickety
Fortunately, none of that affects our
enjoyment as Case 39 drifts way over the top. Renee Zellweger creates an intriguingly brittle character, and pretty
much just has to hold on until the frantic finale. Much
scrunchy-faced screaming ensues, which she's rather good at. While both
Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane provide solid support. And if it's the adorable monster you're
interested in, they don't get much better than Jodelle Ferland as the creepy Lily,
who's just a little too smart for her own good and does even the most
horrific things with a little girl's charm. All of this combines into a
film that's relentlessly creepy, bafflingly predictable, and occasionally entertaining.