Susan Granger Reviews - 27/04

BULLY - A Must See For Teens And Parents

Lee Hirsch's controversial documentary about our national bullying epidemic stood up to the MPAA rating system and won - after cutting a few offensive four-letter words. The Motion Picture Association of America's ruling means that the message can now reach its target PG-13 audience with crucial scenes left in, curses and all.

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(The Weinstein Company)

Beginning with an alarming statistic - more than 13 million American kids will be bullied this year - it personalizes the problem that goes beyond racial, ethnic, sexual and socio-economic realms. Utilizing a case-study format, it focuses on five victims. There's 12 year-old Alex in Sioux City, whose suffering begins long before he boards the school bus and only escalates as he assures his confused parents that his predatory, pummeling tormentors are only "messing with him." There's a 16 year-old Kelby, an athlete who has been shunned since she came out as a lesbian in her small town of Tuttle, Oklahoma.

Part of the distressing problem is how bullying is handled by unresponsive adults, particularly teachers and administrators who often dismiss it as "kids will be kids."

When 14 year-old Ja'Meya reached an emotional breaking point on her hour-long bus ride between home and school in Yazoo County, Mississippi, she used a loaded handgun, taken from her mother's closet, to thwart the cruel teasing. Now incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility, she's charged with multiple felony counts.

There's the tragedy of 17 year-old Tyler Long of Murray County, Georgia, who hanged himself after years of harassment and, according to his bereaved parents, Tina and David Long, indifference by school officials. And the Stand for the Silent vigils that have been organized by Kirk and Laura Smalley, following the suicide of their 11 year-old son, Ty, in Perkins, Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, Lee Hirsch lets the poignant, character-driven stories speak for themselves, without instructive commentary or judicious editing, so it becomes repetitious.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Bully" is a timely, alarming 8, a relevant `must see' for teenagers and their parents, perhaps opening a dialogue among family members.

By Susan Granger, © 2012

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