Social worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) already has a full case load but when she looks over the papers on a young girl called Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland) who keeps sleeping in class she makes it her business to get involved. The thing is that whilst something doesn't feel right about Lilith and her home situation with her father clearly an angry man Emily can't prove a thing. But she won't let go of things and Emily involves her friend Detective Barron (Ian McShane) in the case as well as child psychiatrist Doug (Bradley Cooper) who has a thing for Emily. But after managing to get Lilith away from her family she begins to realise that all is not as it seems.
In the slightly altered words of Roger Murtaugh "I'm getting too familiar with this shit". Now I was going to say it is a problem only movie reviewers face as watching thousands of movies means you have seen pretty much everything. But that is no longer true due to Hollywood reusing ideas over and over again to the point you only need to enjoy the occasional movie to end up plagued with the curse of familiarity. And that is the screaming problem with "Case 39" as it is familiar and that makes it obvious or at least suggestive of what it going on when it comes to Lilith and all the strange stuff which goes on around her and to those she is in contact with.
Now trying to put the obvious nature of "Case 39" aside what you have is a nicely visual movie full of commercial little flourishes which do a nice job of keeping the attention of those who struggle with a lack of shock and awe to keep them entertained. In fairness "Case 39" has some moments of visual shock and awe with a scene which starts with a shocking incident involving a cooker and culminates with a head shaped dent in a freezer whilst someone ending up with a broken jaw. But these moments of visual shock and awe are not frequent because director Christian Alvart tries for suspense and ominous but to me only really causes it to feel drawn out.
But "Case 39" does have something else which is Jodelle Ferland who when given a moment to deliver the ominous nature of her character also grabs your attention. Sadly the majority of the movie focuses of Zellweger and her character who whilst solid doesn't captivate you enough. It is the same else where as the likes of Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper and Adrian Lester are all solid but don't really grip you.
What this all boils to is that "Case 39" might entertain someone who is swayed by who is in a movie and who hasn't watched a great deal of horror. But for those who have the familiarity of it makes it feel drawn out with just some nice visual effects driven moments of horror grabbing you.