Blinded (and apparently deafened, and review-deferred) by my love for Bradley Cooper, I decided to watch the moving picture Case 39 today. Before I even get into how bafflingly awful this movie is, let me state upfront that I expected it to be subpar and/or shitty, based on its 24% on RottenTomatoes and the fact that it was originally filmed in 2006 and left on the backburner until the "perfect moment," (which was apparently September 2010, opening against another horror movie.) What I didn't expect was how slack paced and BORING it was, barring the brief 3 minute sequence in which Bradley Cooper is shirtless. I left the theater at 7:15 and it seriously felt like midnight.
ANYWAY here's a synopsis so yins can get a feel for the story: A child services worker played by Renee Zellweger (who made a vow in 2002 to never again appear in a compelling film) is given 38 different cases to work on at one time, leaving her swamped, frazzled and ready to call it quits! Just when she thinks things can't get hairier, her boss gives her her 39th case - that of a meek little girl named Lily who turns Renee's world upside down and teaches her how to love. If you think this doesn't sound like a horror movie, you're correct, because for the first ENTIRE HOUR of the film, it isn't one. Renee investigates the girl, figures out her parents are trying to murder her in an oven, and decides to adopt her. Months pass and everything is going swimmingly, until suddenly another one of Renee's case kids decides to murder his parents with a tire iron. Shortly after that, Renee's boyfriend played by Bradley Cooper (I think they're dating in reality too, but it's not a reality I accept so we can overlook that) mysteriously kills himself. Renee uses these two pieces of evidence to determine that her newly adopted daughter is actually Satan, and she must destroy her before it's too late.
The first grievance I have with this movie is that it's boring as shit. The plot slogs along while we learn what Renee does in her spare time, what every room in her house looks like, how many pet fish she has, and what she and Bradley do on the weekends. My second grievance is that it makes almost no sense whatsoever. The fact that the little girl is a secret demon incarnate is the most believable aspect of the story. First of all, we spend at least 20 minutes in the first few scenes hearing about how fast paced and work laden Renee's life is. She's so bogged down with her career, she doesn't have time to date Bradley Cooper (which is also bullshit. Everyone has time to date fuckin Bradley Cooper.) Yet when she decides to adopt Lily, she suddenly has tons of free time in which to care for an elementary age child, by herself, with zero experience. It isn't until weeks into the new family setup that Renee inquires about sending Lily "back to school." What the hell were they doing all that time? Was Lily just sitting alone at home all day? What happened to the other 38 cases Renee had been working on simultaneously?
When Lily finally does get back in school, nothing happens for another two months. Renee and Bradley never start dating, even though there's plenty of foreshadowing & Renee seemingly has all this free time to whip up omelets for breakfast every morning. Lily doesn't do anything evil and acts completely timid and soft spoken. Because they waste so much time frolicking around from scene to scene in the first act, the second act is crammed into a 20 minute hodgepodge of events. First some 10 yr old kid named Diego beats his parents into a puddle in their bedroom (an incident that pretty much flies under the radar in terms of news coverage & public distress), which he attributes to a mysterious phone call he received at 2AM from Renee's home land line. Renee suspects it may have been Lily, but brushes it off when Lily claims to know nothing about it. Later, Bradley Cooper does an interview with Lily to determine her group therapy placement. She turns into a complete dick 12 seconds into the interview, and starts giving all these snarky and ominous replies. She asks Bradley what his greatest fear is, to which he responds "hornets." He leaves the interview shaken, and explains briefly to Renee that he thinks Lily was threatening him. Later, he is attacked in his bathroom by hornets that crawl out of his face. This is both the best and worst scene in the film - you get to see Bradley shirtless, he's the only character on screen, and there isn't any dialogue, however, he also dies, and you spend the entire sequence haunted by the knowledge that this will be the last even remotely engaging thing you will see on screen until the credits.
After Bradley dies, we begin to barrel through the plot, starting with Renee's instantaneous conviction that Lily is evil and has caused the past 2 deaths. Renee heads down to the local mental institution to get the sitch from Lily's parents, who inform her that Lily is a demon, and that they tried to kill her for weeks, but failed due to the fact that Lily "almost never sleeps," which apparently did not seem strange for the first two months Renee lived with her. When Renee gets home, we learn that Lily can read minds, and that she knows Renee is on to her. For some reason Renee decides she's going to drug Lily with sleeping pills by crushing them into her tea, and then kill her while she's asleep. If she was going to do that, she could have just put poison in Lily's tea and reduced it to a one step process, but it doesn't matter anyway because LILY CAN READ MINDS and she knows that the tea has been altered. A bunch of bullshit happens, and there's a part where Lily's enflamed ghost mom thing chases Renee down the street and it's actually kind of scary. After that Renee sets her house on fire to kill Lily, but it turns out Lily escaped prior to the fire. Because she can read minds.
The police are totally cool with the blazing inferno & Renee's cold dead stare in the driveway, so they tell her to come drive to the station to find a place to sleep. Renee and Lily start to follow behind the squad cars, but Renee suddenly goes crazy and decides to swerve all over the road and shit to kill Lily. Earlier in the film, we learn that Renee's mother died in a car accident on a rainy night, and sure enough, tonight is a rainy night. Lily creates a scene to visualize Renee's "worst nightmare," which is dying like her mother did. A giant truck swerves in front of them, but Renee drives right through, giving the same "I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I DON'T BELIEVE IN YOU" schpiel that can be found in many other, better horror movies. Lo and behold, the truck vanishes just as they are about to collide! However, for some reason this does not actually defeat Lily, so Renee goes flying off a nearby dock into the ocean. Renee escapes and Lily drowns, after transforming into a pretty ripped demon. THE END
Quality 1/5 This movie is a train wreck.
Hottie Quotient 3/5 Bradley Cooper is super hot, but he's not in it enough, and he dies. Also his hair is kind of short.
Respect for Renee Zelwegger Preservation 2/5 Come on. New in Town? Leatherheads? You're an Oscar winner for crying out loud.