It's 2 A.M. Do you know where your children are? In Ace the Case, on a night of especially lax babysitting, 10-year-old Olivia (Ripley Sobo) witnesses the heiress next door getting kidnapped. No one believes her, except for Detective Dottie Wheel (Susan Sarandon, Sobo's fellow redhead in purple outerwear), and they investigate. Also hot on the trail: the victim's goofy dad (Johnny Tran, channeling Yul Brynner) and his private-sector goon (Lev Gorn).
A caper movie runs on calibrated chaos. Too much randomness makes the gears grind; too little and it feels overdetermined. Ace the Case has both problems. Writer/director Kevin Kaufman is like a distracted parent who can't decide which darling should get more screentime. The clunky side plots, ranging from a dead dad to a sleepwalking problem, need tightening up, and the flashes of genuine weirdness (mom's bug-eyed boyfriend; a stray wisecrack about leather thongs) are too rare to jolt the film out of inertia.
Ace the Case offers a kind of family fun so dated it could qualify for historical preservation. If smartphones weren't going off in the last act, it could've been imported direct from the '90s — back when it was fun to be home alone. For all that, Kaufman has made a kids' movie that's childproof. The heroine gets a dachshund, Harriet the Spy binoculars and little personality. She races down New York City streets that are blandly unpeopled. Despite the giant rabbits and silly hats, her world lacks texture. This movie wants to be comfort food. Instead, it's a Lunchable.