Bully (PG-13 version) Blu-ray Review
Whether we want to believe it or not, I would venture to say that at one time or another we’ve all been bullied. And we’ve bullied others. Not necessarily physically, of course. But maybe you remember the boy you went to school with in 5th grade who was a little overweight. You weren’t intending to hurt his feelings by calling him “fatty,” you were just pointing out that he was heavy. Or remember when you got glasses and the kids in gym class called you “four eyes?” They were laughing so they surely couldn’t know how those words hurt. BULLY tells the story of five such children. Children whose lives have been affected by and, sadly, even ended by bullying.
Tyler was an 11 year old boy that was so quiet and shy that he found it hard to make friends. He was an easy target at school, often teased and pushed around. One classmate suggested he end his “worthless life.” One day Tyler’s father found his son in his bedroom closet, dead. He had hung himself. Alex is a skinny kid cursed with both braces and glasses. This makes him a target for the kids on his bus. Born almost 10 weeks premature, his mother relates that he wasn’t expected to live 24 hours. Now, 13 years later, he is pushed, slapped and punched on an almost daily basis. Ja’meya is an outgoing 14 year old, a budding basketball star and honor student. But even these achievements didn’t stop people from tormenting her. One day, when she could take it no more, she pulled her mother’s gun out on the school bus. Kelby is also a good basketball player. She’s also a lesbian, which leads to an entirely different kind of bullying. Finally, there’s Ty. He loved baseball and building forts with his best friend. He too was 11 when he killed himself.
Take a breath. I had to as soon as I realized the horrible outcome to Tyler’s story. What struck me as a horrible injustice was the fact that many of the adults (bus drivers, school administrators, etc) that should be protecting these kids instead found it easier to make excuses for the tormentors rather than face the truth. One principal thinks she’s done her job when she makes a young boy and the other, larger boy who was bullying him shake hands. Hoping to escape punishment the bully extends his hand right away. The other boy is reluctant. When he finally does the principal reprimands him for not shaking hands right away. The boy tells her that the kid is just going to do it again. He’s told him over and over that he is going to kill him. “Maybe,” the principal says, “but he also said he was sorry” This is a continuing theme. When Alex is being smacked around on the bus we see the bus driver check her rearview mirror, see what is happening, and then smile. I don’t know what I find more shocking, the bus driver’s actions or the fact that, even though they know they are being filmed, the kids still bully Alex. When questioned about his day at home Alex relates the things that happen but explains in a way that makes it sound like it’s a game to the bullys. He’s sure that the one boy who tried to strangle him was just “messing around.” The situation gets so bad that the filmmakers take the drastic step of showing their footage to both Alex’s parents and the school’s principal. The principal also refuses to take any responsibility, saying that when she’s ridden Alex’s bus the children have been well behaved. These stories continue as the film builds to an emotional climax at a state-wide rally in Ty’s memory. “My son will always be 11,” Ty’s father tells the gathering. Later in an interview he laments the fact that his son went to a small town school. He feels that if some rich politician’s kid had to endure what his boy did that things would change pretty damn quick. Sadly, I think he’s wrong.
For those wondering, this film was originally rated “R,” despite the fact that the rating made it almost impossible for the children this film is aimed at to see it. The film company appealed the rating but their request was denied so the studio released the film unrated. They later deleted some of the language (a lot of F-bombs) and received the PG 13 rating.
NOTE: I find it almost impossible to rate documentaries. In my opinion this is a very important film that needs to be seen by anyone who has either picked on someone or been picked on him or herself in the past. In my opinion, this film needs to be seen by as many people, especially young kids and their parents, as possible. I thought I would add this note to my review rather than explain why I gave the film my original rating thought of ten out of ten and have to explain why I apparently think “this film is as good as CITIZEN KANE??) I don’t.
Video: Presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio (it was 1.85:1 in theatres). The footage here is typical for a mostly low budget documentary so while clear the image is nothing spectacular.
Audio: The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio5.1. The conversations are clear with even the softest voices audible.
A solid collection of extra material that helps spread the message.
Special Edition of BULLY edited for a younger audience (47:11): Meant for pre-teens the message is still strong.
Deleted Scenes (12:35): Six deleted scenes: “Alex Singing at Home,” “Popularity Scale,” “Kelby’s Last Day at School,” “A Day Without Bullies,” “Caine’s Story” and “Jake Stands Up.”
The “Bully” Project at Work (7:17): A short piece on how a middle school got involved in the “1 Million Kids” campaign designed by The Bully Project, featuring the reactions of the school children after they see the film.
Alex After “Bully” (4:27): A quick look into how Alex’s life has changed since the release of the film.
Alex’s Character Sketch (1:45): Another short look at Alex.
Alex Raps (2:27): At the NO BULL Teen Video Awards Alex raps with singer Sean Kingston.
Kelby’s Original Sketch (1:26): A short piece on Kelby.
Meryl Streep on Bullying (2:07): The Oscar-winner talks about her reaction to the film.
Communities in Motion (5:16): A combination live action/animated piece that deals with bully prevention.
Sioux City After “Bully” (6:32): People from Alex’s hometown speak about the film and their communities new anti-bullying measures.
Good Morning America (7:57): Alex and his mother, Tyler’s father David and director Hirsch talk about the film on the morning show.
Kevin Jennings, An Advocates Perspective (2:22): Jennings, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education, talks about the problem of bullying.
We Are Daniel Cui (3:17): Cui is a young soccer player who dealt with on-line bullying after he allowed a goal. The piece shows how his friends helped him deal with, and put an end to, the bullying.
“Bully” the Book: An ad for the book.