Ace the Case

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Ace the Case Movie Poster Image
Tween detective story is surprisingly violent, dark in tone.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Encourages doing your part to help others and telling the authorities when you see something illegal or shady going on. Also promotes close sibling relationships and the importance of friends who will call you out when you're being greedy or acting irresponsibly. Teamwork and taking responsibility are touted.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character (who's brave and quick-thinking) feels morally compelled to help the police solve the mystery of a stranger who lives across the street. She's smart and kind and wants to help the kidnapped woman, but she also makes some iffy and even dangerous decisions. Her brother tries to keep her safe, but sometimes he's too busy entertaining friends to be a responsible caretaker. Also, a woman leaves her 17-year-old in charge of her tween for a couple of days. And an adult tells a teen and tween he doesn't care what they do as long they don't kill themselves.

Violence

In the opening scene, a father is killed. Criminals kidnap a young woman for ransom, keeping her imprisoned and tied to a cot and threatening her with a gun. A man hits a mugger with a cane. A man douses two characters with gasoline and is about to strike a match. A man who isn't a cop uses martial arts and other forms of physical and verbal intimidation to get suspects to talk. A young girl rides the subway and is frightened by two menacing men. A criminal confronts a young girl who's been following him and tells her he can and will cut her up if she doesn't leave him alone. Fight scene involves several parties pointing guns at one another. A man accidentally kills himself with his own gun, but his corpse isn't scary; he looks like he's smiling.

Sex

A young woman is temporarily living with her boyfriend; they embrace a couple of times. A man tries to pick up a woman at a club. A man's alibi in a crime is that he spent the night with another woman. A silly but suggestive phone joke about whether someone still wears thongs and then someone says she prefers leather and chaps.

Language

Mild insult language like "stupid," "idiot," "weird," "freak," etc.

Consumerism

Chanel, Mustang.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Two teens drink while parents are away; one of them gets so drunk he vomits repeatedly. Several adults drink socially at home, restaurants, and nightclubs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ace the Case is a Manhattan-set mystery about a young girl who sees her neighbor being kidnapped. Although the main character is a tween and the movie is presented as a family-friendly detective story, its tone is dark and dangerous overall. Violence includes a parental death, a kidnapping (a woman is tied to a cot), threats with guns (and other forms of intimidation), and more. Plus, in one particularly harrowing scene, the main character and another person are doused with gasoline and nearly lit on fire. Language is mild, and there's no sex beyond mild flirtation at a club and a couple of embraces and suggestive jokes. But teens do drink and get drunk (to the point of vomiting in one case), and -- inexplicably -- one adult character basically says he doesn't care what unsupervised kids do as long they don't kill themselves.

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What's the story?

ACE THE CASE follows a New York City family still recovering from the death of their father/husband a year earlier. The mom must leave her 17-year-old son, Miles (Aaron Sauter), in charge of his tween sister, Olivia (Ripley Sobo), who's a chronic sleepwalker. While Mom is away, Olivia takes the family dog for a walk at 2 in the morning and witnesses a kidnapping that leaves her understandably shaken. She wants to go to the police, but Miles says her testimony can't be trusted because of her condition. But when Olivia sees cops converge at the scene of the crime the next day, she decides to trust detective Dottie Wheel (Susan Sarandon) with her story. Olivia figures out that the victim lives in the apartment building across the street and begins to snoop with her binoculars. Meanwhile, the missing young woman's father hires a mysterious private investigator called the Surgeon (Lev Gorn) to solve the case by whatever means necessary.

Is it any good?

Even Academy-Award winner Sarandon can't save this forgettable mystery, which is too dark and frightening for younger kids and too obvious and poorly executed to please teens and adults. Kid gumshoes can be iconic (Nancy Drew, the Scooby-Doo gang, Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys), but Ace the Case's Olivia won't be joining their ranks. While there's nothing wrong with Sobo's performance, the movie isn't compelling enough to draw viewers in. And Sarandon's presence here is even less understandable than Kevin Spacey's in Nine Lives, since at the very least he had notable actors to work with and most of his performance was voice work. In Ace the Case, Sarandon has the unenviable job of being the sole recognizable actor.

The worst part is the subplot involving the Surgeon, who the kidnapping victim's father hires to help him find his daughter. The Surgeon can tell everything about someone's background just from a sentence or two. Perhaps he's supposed to be Sherlock Holmes meets Jason Statham meets Harvey Keitel's Wolf from Pulp Fiction -- but with a giant pet rabbit (don't ask, because it makes no sense). But as performed, he’s an off-putting show-off with disappointing, fake-looking action moves. Perhaps if the story had focused more on Olivia and Dottie than on also including the Surgeon and the criminals (all so terrible they don't warrant mentioning), Ace the Case could have been slightly more kid friendly and not as instantly forgettable.

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