Bully (2019)

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Bully (2019) Movie Poster Image
Positive message, constant cursing in coming-of-age comedy.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A teen learns to defend himself and stand up to the bullies at school. He learns how to box, and his instructors are adamant about only fighting in self defense. Movie challenges sexist assumptions that boxing is exclusively a sport for males. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jimmy is an overweight teen who learns how to defend himself by learning to box in a gym. He's funny, cares about his friends, and overcomes his own reluctance and laziness in order to get in better shape and stand up to the bullies that are trying to extort him for money. His trainers are adamant that he only learns boxing for self defense. Teachers and school administrators don't do anything about the bullies, and are even shown watching the climactic fight between Jimmy and the bully from a window inside the school. 

Violence

 Bullies beat up the lead character before an adult breaks up the fight. The bullies also knock books and water bottles out of the hands of smaller kids. Mafia henchmen place a plastic bag over the head of a large boxer and ex-con. 

Sex

Some sex talk among teens. Lead character talks about how he wants to "hook up" with a classmate. When lead character and girlfriend attend a party, the host tells them that she needs to "make sure no one's having sex in my dad's room." In a classroom, a bully makes a gesture suggesting oral sex to the gay teen boy seated behind him. At a party, drunk teen boy walks around with a sex doll. 

Language

Constant profanity. White bully calls an African American man the "N" word. "F--k" constantly used. "Motherf---er" frequently used. Nearly every curse word used at some point. Bullies fat-shame the lead character, express homophobia and racism in other scenes. Middle finger gesture. 

Consumerism

Call of Duty mentioned in conversation. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink and smoke marijuana at a party. In the background of the party scene, teens stumble around, drunk. Drunk teen boy walks around with a sex doll. One of the bullies vapes. Mafia guys drinks liquor and smokes cigars. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bully is a 2019 comedy in which Tucker Albrizzi plays a teen who learns to box in order to defend himself from the bullies who torment him. While the movie has positive messages about learning self defense (and only using one's training for self defense), it also doesn't shy away from bullying, constant profanity (frequent use of "f--k" and variations), and all-round questionable behavior. Three bullies shove kids into lockers, knock over books and water bottles, and try to get $200 from the lead character. They also beat up the lead character and call an African American man the "N" word. One of the lead character's friends is gay, and one of the bullies makes an "oral sex" gesture to him while in class. When the lead character and girlfriend attend a party, the host tells them that she needs to "make sure no one's having sex in my dad's room." A drunk teen boy walks around with a sex doll.  Teens are shown drunk and stumbling around. While the adults in the boxing gym help Jimmy, and Jimmy's parents are supportive overall, the teachers and administrators in the school do nothing about the bullying, and are even shown at the end watching the climactic fight from a school window. The teens here are believable and perhaps relatable to those who might be having a tough time fitting in at their school, and this movie could inspire discussion among families about the best way to deal with bullies. 

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What's the story?

In BULLY, Jimmy (Tucker Albrizzi) is an overweight teen who's a frequent target of the school bully Miles and his crew. One day while walking home from school, Miles and his friends beat up Jimmy in front of the house of "Action" Jackson, a former boxer. After sending the bullies away and tending to Jimmy's injuries, "Action" encourages Jimmy to take boxing lessons at a nearby gym. Jimmy convinces his parents to try it. "Action" introduces Jimmy to Manny (Danny Trejo), and the two start training. Meanwhile, Miles is trying to extort $100 from Jimmy, who, on "Action's" advice, tells Miles that he will give him $200 in two weeks. While reluctant and lazy at first, Jimmy really starts to enjoy his training. He goes on a date with classmate Adrian, who notices how he has slimmed down a little bit and wants to know his secret. Before Jimmy stands up to Miles, Miles learns that Jimmy has been learning how to box, and comes up with a scheme to ensure Jimmy's boxing days are over. When the day of the big confrontation arrives, Jimmy must find a way to stand up to Miles and make sure that he stops bullying not only Jimmy, but also his friends and everyone in the school that he torments. 

Is it any good?

It's a shopworn story, but this movie manages to carve out its own space in the "coming-of-age underdog standing up to bullies" genre. As bullied teen Jimmy, Tucker Albrizzi comes across as likable, relatable, and funny. While Jimmy's teen friends seem to rely a bit too much on profanity as a way to convey realism, it actually ends up being more believable dialogue than what you see in most movies and TV shows about teens. As boxing trainer Manny, Danny Trejo seems to be having a good time in each scene. The bullies are appropriately awful in every way, and even as you can easily predict how the movie will end, you'll still find yourself cheering for Jimmy.

Bully does have some flaws. The aforementioned cursing starts getting tired. Vincent Pastore, best known from The Sopranos, is gratuitously used in a cameo near the end, playing the role of a -- you guessed it -- mob guy. It's hard not to groan when you find out that Jimmy's love interest is named "Adrian." That said, the actors carry the movie to the end, and teens are likely to find much to analyze and discuss.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bullying. How does this movie show bullying? Does it seem realistic or exaggerated? Does Jimmy's approach to dealing with the bullies in his life seem like a viable option for kids experiencing bullying? Why or why not? 

  • How does Bully compare to other "underdog" tales? 

  • Was the profanity in the movie necessary for the sake of realism, or did it seem exaggerated and unnecessary? 

Movie details

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