Movie Review: How to Beat a Bully – Storytelling Works

In online release on Amazon Instant Video and Google Play, the feature-length family movie How to Beat a Bully is an outlandish comedy built around the otherwise serious consequences of lies and intimidation.

How to Beat a Bully - Amazon Video and Google Play

From the title, you might expect a kid-oriented documentary – or, considering its billing as a comedy, a mockumentary. But instead it’s a charmingly silly story about a 12-year-old boy Cory (Grant McLellan) who concocts a tall tale he thinks will protect him from schoolmate bully Darryl (Ian Tucker) and his buddies Sean (Bryan Yoshi Brown) and Brian (Kade Pait).

Cory (Grant McLellan) and his botch-it dad Joe (Eric Lauritzen)

Darryl (Ian Tucker) and Brian (Kade Pait)

There will be some spoilers here but nothing to ruin the fun. The story kicks off when Cory’s family moves from Hoboken, New Jersey to the quiet town of Elmhurst. Cory’s insurance-salesman father Joe (Eric Lauritzen) has lost his job, himself apparently the victim of teasing at the office, winning him the nickname “Mister Botchit.” (Indeed, Joe’s talent for well-intentioned screw-ups is one engine of comedy in the story.) Cory’s mom Pam (Elise Angell) enrolls him in a home school run by the ditzy Mrs. Fernell (Pamela Munro). As the new boy in town, Cory predictably puts up with abuse from his peers. Darryl, Sean, and Brian subject him to attack by pea shooter and squirt gun, lunch theft, name calling, and penny-ante extortion.

Mrs. Fernell (Pamela Munro) runs home school like recess

Annoyed but unharmed physically, Cory simply counters by telling the guys that his dad is a hit-man for the Mob.

After scoffing at Cory, the boys come to believe it’s true. And so do their parents, their teacher, the neighbors – and here’s the main engine of comedy – a pair of real local Mafiosi, Marco (Vince Donvito) and Nick (Micah Lyons).

Real-world mobster Marco (Vince Devito)

Mobster comic sidekick Nick (Micah Lyons)

The story gains credibility when Pam’s Uncle Don (Robert Weiner) comes to live with them and is mistaken for a retired Jersey hoodlum. As the plot culminates in a series of colossal misunderstandings, Marco decides to recruit rival Joe to his crew by ordering a “policy” on deadbeat Freddy (Ed Dyer). When Joe delivers an insurance contract instead of the other kind to Jack-Nicholson-lookalike Freddy, there’s hard feelings all around and a show-down with the bad guys.

Cory convenes his new crew

Meanwhile, Darryl and the school gang, fearing the worst from Cory’s dad if they don’t cooperate with him, form a new posse around Cory as they reach out to include other kid victims (Griffen Beebe and Pearce Joza). When Cory finds his father in trouble at the show-down, he enrolls his new peeps in the task of confronting and defeating the deadly duo, Marco and Nick.

Cory's crew ready for action

If there’s a lesson in all this, it’s that Cory’s storytelling and his creativity are ultimately more powerful and persuasive than threats of violence. Joe gets it when he tells Cory, “Words can be just as dangerous as fists – if you don’t use them right.”

On a serious note, not to be dwelt upon but perhaps a topic for adult reflection: The public’s fascination with true crime and violence is rooted in our deep-seated fear of intimidation. We seem to respect the threat of violence more than we trust the rule of law.

Maybe someday our kids will get it right?

Directed by Douglas Bilitch and produced by Sofia Lois Monroe and Paul Rocha, this Dream Factory Entertainment feature is delightful family fare that may just trigger a few thoughtful discussions around the dinner table. The film was awarded the Dove Foundation Seal of Recommendation for family viewing. According to the filmmakers, “Educators and psychologists agree that humor can be a positive and effective way to connect with both children and adults on this serious subject.”

Writers Rossner and Anderson have cameos as angry neighbors

How to Beat a Bully was written by Marilyn Anderson & Richard Rossner. A Writers Guild honoree for her work on the TV series Murphy Brown, Ms. Anderson’s recent humorous books include Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl's Guide to Creatures from the Dating Swamp and MUTTweiler: An AutoDOGography. Mr. Rossner’s credits include story editor on the TV series Full House and a career in improvisational comedy, including his work with troupes The Groundlings and The Power of Play.

The film’s publicity website is
Movie Trailer on YouTube:
Full Movie on Amazon Video: (Amazon Prime members watch free)
Full Movie on Google Play:

Photos courtesy Dream Factory Entertainment

Gerald Everett Jones is a regular contributor to LA Splash. He is the author of six novels, including The Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill (three books), Mr. Ballpoint, Christmas Karma, and Bonfire of the Vanderbilts.

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