In Case 39, Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) is a devoted family services specialist who has seen it all - lies, neglect, abuse; basically domestic horrors of all kinds. She was working on 38 cases, when the 39th case landed on her table. Reluctantly, she accepts the case and visits the girl, who has been showing signs of domestic neglect at school. She encounters a hostile set of parents (Kerry O'Malley and Callum Keith Rennie) and a vulnerable 10 yr old Lillith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland). Unable to get much of help or cooperation from the parents, she refers the case to her boss, who calls the family for further interrogation. In absence of a proper case, they are unable to take any action. Not willing to let it go, moved by the child's plight and silence, Emily leaves her phone no with her, asking her to call in case of distress. And when she receives the call from Lillith, she takes help of her friend Detective Mike (Ian McShane) to rescue the girl from getting burnt alive her home. The parents are taken into custody.
Usually, Emily doesn't get personally involved but the small girl's innocence makes her consider taking her into her own place from the Shelter Home. Slowly, strange events unfold like Diego, one of the young boys, whose case Emily has been handling, brutally kills his parents. A call to Diego's place is traced to Emily's home. Even, Emily's friend Douglas (Bradley Cooper) who was also helping Lillith as a shrink to overcome her situation also dies under mysterious circumstances. Emily no more believes, Lillith is the innocent victim and thinks, the girl is connected to the series of accidents. She tries to investigate further and goes to meet her parents in custody, who also encounter tragic deaths. Now, trapped in her own house with the girl, she tries to sedate the girl and burn her down alive with the house. But, she escapes and Emily has no option but to take the ultimate step in going down with her. But, she is not dead and may re-emerge as Case 139 or Case 39-2!
The movie, supposed to be an intense tale of psychological terror, falls short of expectations on both psychological analysis and creating terror aspect. The movie talks about devil feeding on fear, but doesn't offer sufficient reason, how devil came to reside in the girl. Some routine scenes like barking black dogs appearing out of nowhere, creating anticipation in whats behind the banging door, or a girl changing form or voice give you an occasional jerk but doesn't really make you jump off the seat! By now, the audience know well enough, that locking doors are not good enough protection to lock the evil out of the room. But, doors need to be broken to create some terror in the audience. Also, few unnatural deaths are all in order, when the devil is in action. It's Renee Zellweger's film and she gives a good performance, but this movie was not supposed to be about her. There isn't enough of scare, "that gives you the creeps" kind in the movie to draw movie lovers of such a genre in hordes to the theaters. Another negative fallout could be, people would be more scared of adoption wondering, what scare the new child could bring into the family! However, one big plus in the movie is, there was no attempt to go into detailed discussion about evil forces and clash with Church, exorcism and all.
One push for Case 39 would be renewed interest in horror films, coming after release of Paranormal Activity, which unfortunately gives you much more scare.
P.S. One good thing is you can take your girlfriend to the theater on the ground, that the movie is not really scary, and for the few scares that the movie offers, you can enjoy those precious moments! ;-)