Anchor Bay // 2011 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 12th, 2013
Be a Hero. Take a Stand.
This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones, and on the streets of their towns. It is the most common form of violence young people in this country experience. There is a rising anti-bullying movement in our country, and this documentary serves as a call to action. Because it deals with victims of this phenomenon, which is as old as the concept of "survival of the fittest," Bully is a tough film to watch. The language is brutal and harsh, the actions cruel and unrelenting. It sparked a huge controversy about the MPAA and its ratings, as the review board slapped an "R" rating on a film aimed squarely at enlightening teens. The resulting public outcry all across social media meant Bully garnered much well deserved attention.
The project was originated by Sundance Film Festival winning documentarian Lee Hirsch because he himself was bullied in school. The five stories that make up Bully include two that suffered the ultimate fate, the tragic suicides of young people who never survived their school experiences. I found it quite difficult to watch real children torment each other, followed by adults flailing, unable to handle the situations well. Hirsch's film clearly states we don't know what happens to our kids, many of whom are often tormented and never reveal the extent of their experiences. Alex, Kelby, Ja'Meya, Ty, and Tyler's stories are moving and heartbreakingly not so atypical. The adults around them are seemingly powerless to deal with these issues, and often downright inept. As a result, the kids come off as wise and the adults as idiots.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, the imagery is crisp, natural, and far more filmic than most modern documentaries. Aliasing surfaces here and there, but overall Anchor Bay's Blu-ray transfer is well done. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a touch soft, but works well enough to relay these conversations. There are optional subtitles available, if you find segments too quiet or garbled. Strangely enough, the version presented here is the edited down PG-13 cut. An unrated cut was exhibited in some markets, but producers claim only a handulf of seconds were trimmed to obtain the rating. In terms of extras, we get a forty-seven minute version created for younger viewers who cannot handle the violence or intense language. We also get 13 minutes of deleted scenes featurettes from The Bully Project which shows how the film impacted communities and subsequently went to work on the social issues; a few short bits on the kids themselves; a PSA from Meryl Streep; an advertisement for the companion book; and a standard def version of the original film, but not the one for younger audiences.
If Bully has any flaws, it's the exasperation of only examining the victims of these events. We never hear from the bullies themselves, proving there are no easy answers or solutions to be found. There is also no resolution to any of the stories presented here, just a sense that the kids are forced to soldier on as bravely as they have been doing for years. It's a desperate, harsh, and all too real experience, one that shows bullied kids they are not alone, and creates a sense of responsibility and duty in everyone who views it.
Guilty of throwing light on an extremely dark topic.
Review content copyright © 2013 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Shortened Version
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Copy