Becoming Bulletproof

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Becoming Bulletproof Movie Poster Image
Lovely, big-hearted docu about disability inclusion.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 82 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Movie works hard to change perception of people with disabilities as "less" than anyone else. It presents them as equals, especially in sequences where the entire company is shown to be one big, loving family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Everyone here is shown to be goodhearted, caring about others, doing good in the world. In particular, actors Jeremy Vest, Zack Gottsagen, and A.J. Murray are extremely admirable, brave, and unstoppable in their attempts to overcome personal challenges. Gottsagen in particular is a success story, having gone on to appear in the delightful The Peanut Butter Falcon.

Violence

Guns, threats, shooting within context of the fictional Western movie. Characters die, and death is mentioned, also within context of fictional movie. A character discusses his constant pain in real life.

Sex

References to/discussion about sex, sex therapy, pornography, dating. Scantily clad women shown. Mention of "whorehouse" and "prostitute." People working on movie shoot are shown nursing crushes on one another; a man asks a woman to marry him. A mother bathes her adult son, who has cerebral palsy (no nudity). Other sex-related talk and/or innuendo.

Language

Infrequent language includes uses of "s--t" and "a--hole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Becoming Bulletproof is a documentary about a nonprofit collective that makes a movie every year using both people with disabilities and nondisabled people as cast and crew. It's a lovely, big-hearted film with terrific messages of courage, inclusion, and equality, but it also has some mature content. There are a couple of uses of "s--t" and "a--hole," and Western violence is shown in the context of the movie within the movie, including threats, guns/shooting, and death. Scantily clad women are shown, and several scenes have fairly strong sex-related talk/innuendo. One man in particular talks about pornography and sex therapy. 

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What's the story?

In BECOMING BULLETPROOF, the nonprofit organization Zeno Mountain Farm prepares to make another of its annual movies featuring a cast and crew made up of both people with disabilities and those without disabilities. This time around, the film will be a Western called Bulletproof. Jeremy Vest, who has Williams syndrome, has risen through the ranks and has now been cast as the hero of the picture, "Bulletproof Jackson." Likewise, Zack Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome, has landed not only the scene-stealing role of villainous Gar Vunderson, but also a second role as "Grimm Jim." And newcomer A.J. Murray, who has severe cerebral palsy, gets his first chance to live his dream as an actor. But the complex production has many rustic locations and lines of dialogue to be memorized -- and not much time in which to do it all.

Is it any good?

This lovely, big-hearted documentary does an excellent job of showing that people with disabilities are absolutely, utterly human. It also tells a compelling story of the hard work that goes into making a movie. Becoming Bulletproof is an excellent, matter-of-fact mix of elements. It tells the story of the nonprofit, founded by the able-bodied Halby family, which grew surprisingly quickly and eventually became a full-time effort. (Will Halby was a co-writer on Bulletproof.) Then it focuses largely on three of the actors (Gottsagen, who later starred in The Peanut Butter Falcon, Vest, and Murray), offering relaxed, candid interviews with them rather than the typical, airless-studio talking-head variety.

The film occasionally switches from nonfiction into scenes from the finished Western, moving into Sergio Leone-like widescreen and sepia-tone color -- and it really does look like a professional, entertaining effort. Bulletproof director Peter Lazarus says he's interested in making the best movie possible, and his patient, kind, yet firm work with all of the actors is admirable. But the most moving thing about Becoming Bulletproof is watching this band of all kinds of friends absolutely loving being in each other's company.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Becoming Bulletproof's depiction of violence. The violence in the movie is all fictional, part of the movie being made -- but does it still have an effect?

  • How does the movie deal with the subject of sex? Do people talk openly about it? What values are imparted?

  • Are any (or all) of the people in the movie role models? If so, how? What character strengths do they exhibit?

  • One of the interviewees says that she initially looked down upon people with disabilities, considering them "slower," and she now realizes how wrong she was. Did the movie alter your own perceptions in any way?

  • What did you learn about how movies are made? Does it look like fun? Hard work? Boring? (If you want to watch the team's finished production, Bulletproof, you can stream it via the Zeno Mountain Farm website.)

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love documentaries and Westerns

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