Bully (2012)

But honestly, what if I don’t have any money for lunch?

This is the story about kids, parents, and families, from all different walks of life, that all have to deal with the terrible issue that is very prominent, still, in today’s and age: bullying. Some kids still go through with it, some kids try to stop it, and others, failed and in-return, took their own lives instead.

You can’t hate a film for having nice intentions and most of all, you can’t hate a film for bringing a very important topic/subject to the screen that we’ve never really seen before. It’s sad and utterly disappointing to still think that in the 21st Century, we still have to deal with kids being bullied, parents not talking to their kids, teachers not helping-out, and kids getting so fed-up with it all, that they just decide to take their own lives. It’s very sad to know that bullying, an idea that has almost become so goofy now, is still alive and well in today’s schools, shows no end in sight, and is even worse now, mainly due to the fact of technology. Yup, it’s a sad, sad world we live in, and it’s even sadder that this flick couldn’t be the one to change the game.

The whole controversy about this flick coming-out a couple of months ago, was the fact that it only featured about 6 uses of the word “fuck” and was going to receive an R-rating. That’s pretty damn stupid, but then again, it’s the MPAA, they’re ancient, they’re prudes, and they don’t like the Weinsteins very much, so I’m not surprised. However, rather than making this a review about how the MPAA sucks and that this movie didn’t deserve to be hit with the R-rating, I’m just going to shy away and go back to what really matters: the movie itself.

I honestly would not want to mess with this kid.
I honestly would not want to mess with this kid.

For me, I have never really had to deal with bullying, mainly because I was always 6″-feet-tall, and never really had a problem with people that I didn’t already throw right back in their face. In return, I never bullied anyone, either, because quite frankly, it just wasn’t right, especially to the people who didn’t deserve it. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t at least notice some bullying throughout my days of schooling and what I did see, I didn’t like. Did I ever do anything about it? Not really, mostly because it never got to the point of where I felt like somebody was going to pull a desperate act of violence that would be harmful to the two and say what you will about that stance: it always ended up being exactly what I thought. But that doesn’t mean that bullying still isn’t happening around the world and what’s even worse, is how it’s not being stopped.

Director Lee Hirsch, has said that he was bullied when he was a kid and made this flick for all of those kids that have been bullied, and in a way, he’s given those poor-souls something to chew-on and open their eyes, even if just for a bit. What Hirsch captures on-camera, whether it is staged or not, is very disturbing and brutal, especially by the fact that how it goes on-and-on-and-on. Don’t get me wrong, this is not one of those flicks that just shows a bunch of kids getting thrown into lockers, getting on the bad end of swirlee, and coming home with their undies all stretched-out, but what we do see, definitely catches your eye and sort of has you in-disgust. It’s emotional and very eye-opening in the way that Hirsch captures all of this on-camera and never pans away. It definitely makes you feel more for the people this act of bullying is happen to, as if you didn’t already have sympathy for them before the movie even started.

People will say the same old cliche, “boys will be boys”, and as true as that may be, boys do not act like little assholes like this, get away with it, and act like it never happened again. They continue with their daily-lives and act like this forever, until they finally realize that they wasted their whole life on just being a little piece of crap towards other, weaker kids and it’s a very, very sad idea that I had going-on throughout my head the whole time. However, as these ideas were going through my head, I realized something: my ideas were probably a lot smarter than the ones this movie had going around.

Where I think Hirsch drops the ball is how he shows these kids being bullied and being tortured to the point of no return, then shows the people who try to stop it by telling other people to be nice and kind towards other. That’s a nice stance to take on with life, but when it comes to bullying: it isn’t. Think about it, if a kid who was being bullied just took it all of the time, didn’t say anything to his parents, and went-on about his day with no rhyme or reason as to why he’s being picked-on in the first-place, do you really think that kid is going to just solve it all and have all of that bullying go away, by simply being nice? Hell, no! I know that may come off as a bit insensitive and I am by no means, saying that taking acts of violence into your own hands is the way to go-about problems like bullying, but standing there, being nice, and keeping a smile on your face, will never, ever do the trick. That is unless, the smile you have on your face scares the shit out of the kids around you, then you won’t have to worry about no bullying whatsoever. Just a simple solution, I guess.

The stiff-arm! Blame the NFL for bullying, too!
The stiff-arm! Blame the NFL for bullying, too!

That idea of solving this problem doesn’t really seem fit to what’s really going on, out-there in the real-world but that’s not the only problem with the solution that Hirsch seems to draw-out from his paws. Hirsch’s biggest problem seems that he never really points the finger all that much at the people that are really responsible for this happening. Yes, we do get a couple of scenes where the teachers/principals act like a bunch of dumb-asses that act as if there is no such thing as bullying going on around their schools, but it’s not enough. It’s nice that we get to see the people that are hurt, understand why they are, and hopefully, think of a way to cure their pain, but the people that are responsible for all of that pain and anguish, should also be brought-up to the forefront, to the point of where we see clearly, why it is that bullying continues in the school-system.

That’s what also brings me onto my next point, in how the movie is in-fact called Bully, but yet, the subjects themselves that this movie takes it’s title from, are rarely ever documented. We never get to see the side from a bully here, why they do the things they do, where the problem stems from, and exactly how they can stop it and I get it, no kid is going to want to come-up to a film-crew and say that he/she is a bully, but Hirsch could have easily went-out there, found a person that used to be a bully, and see exactly what it was that made that person, tick the way that they did. Seeing the point-of-view of the kids who actually get bullied is still very emotional and disturbing in it’s own right, but showing the other-side and what they go through, would have definitely made this flick seem like it had more of a clearer, moral-compass that wasn’t just about getting rid of bullies. In a way, getting rid of bullies is the right solution to this problem, but in another way, it’s also too simple to be the right thing to do. To put an end to bullying, we have to understand the person who’s causing all of this pain, see exactly why they do it, and what the solution to all of their actions could be. We never get any of that with this flick and as much as I would have liked to see more sides pointed-at and shown in the spotlight, it never happens.

Consensus: Bully is an important-flick that should definitely be shown to kids of all ages, but an important-flick, definitely doesn’t make a good one, especially when you have one that’s as one-sided as this one.


Do zombies count as bullies?
Do zombies count as bullies?


  1. Nice review! I had heard that the lopsided preachiness of the film worked against it. I grew pretty cold towards it and the MPAA fight. My only write up about it was the MPAA issue and I didn’t completely go against them. Anyway, I may eventually catch up with this but I’m in no hurry.

  2. Good review.

    I checked what I gave this when it came out and discovered I gave it an “A”. I was surprised because I usually remember my “A” ratings. I read the review and determined I was rating my emotional response and not the documentary.

    Your consensus is spot on with me.

    • Thanks! I liked it, but could have had much more of an impact on my mind and feelings about the topic of bullying. Oh well, maybe in a few years somebody will make another one and show this topic the right way.

  3. Great review, Dan! You raised a good point about the bullies’ perspective never being explored.

    The MPAA is way beyond absurd. Kids are dying, due to bullying-related suicide, and they’re whining about the word “fuck” being used. What parallel universe do these people live in, anyway?

    • The MPAA are a bunch of buffoons, but that’s besides the point, this movie should have been better and touched on much more than it actually even bothered with. Thanks!

  4. I agree with VictorsMovieReviews, I had initially given the film a high rating but, in retrospect, I think it was more because the subject matter touched an emotional cord in me, than because of the quality of the film. But I still think it’s a must see in order for children, parents, educators and the general population to be aware of the consequences of bullying.

  5. Nice review. I saw it recently and liked it a bit more, but wished the movie would have also offered some suggestions for kids dealing with the issue inspiring them.

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