It seemed about time for Lifetime to make a Casey Anthony movie. The network loves to take a controversial true story and cast actors who look nothing like the real people they’re portraying. Prosecuting Casey Anthony delivers that, casting Rob Lowe, known in the Lifetime world as Drew Peterson, as prosecutor Jeff Ashton.
If you’ve for some reason been living in a Nancy Grace-less world for the past five years, first of all, I’m sorry. Second of all, the film details the events surrounding the high-profile murder trial of “tot mom” Casey Anthony (played by Virginia Welch), who was accused (and found not guilty, against public opinion) of killing her daughter Caylee.
I went into this movie expecting some kind of new, fascinating insight into the case the whole country was talking about. Maybe some scandalous details about what happened behind-the-scenes, to figure out “what went wrong,” as the movie asks.
But then I started watching the movie and I realized that the whole thing is pretty unnecessary, because it’s basically one big reenactment of an event that a large percentage of Americans already witnessed firsthand on their televisions. Unlike other true stories, information about this case was very accessible to the everyday public, either by watching the hours and hours of live courtroom footage or listening to news programs debate the issues. Do we really need to see actors recreate what we already saw happening live before our eyes a year and a half ago?
Maybe it would be different if the movie gave us any new information about the case. The only new developments I gleaned from the movie were that Jeff Ashton and Linda Drane Burdick (Elizabeth Mitchell), the other prosecuting attorney, ate a lot of meals at restaurants, and Ashton at one point trimmed his Christmas tree with his wife. Thanks, Lifetime! I have a whole new outlook on the case now!
A big chunk of the film takes place in a perfectly recreated courtroom where the actors recite dialogue taken verbatim from the trial, and then, just like in Titanic, we find out what we saw coming all along:
two people can’t fit on a floating door Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murder.
And it’s not even like this story happened so long ago that there are people out there who are just now becoming old enough to learn about it for the first time. It just happened! I don’t think there are any one-and-a-half-year-olds saying, “Mommy, I need to learn about the Casey Anthony trial I wasn’t alive to experience!”
Is Lifetime pioneering a new form of television entertainment called “let’s reenact a real event you can just YouTube”? Will their next project be a reenactment of the 2011 Oscars, with different actors playing James Franco and Anne Hathaway, but never showing what drama went on behind-the-scenes? Actually, put a pin in that, Lifetime, I’d still watch it.
It’s disappointing that this is all the film amounts to, because the main actors actually put in good performances. Once I got past the idea that I was watching Chris from Parks and Rec and Juliet from Lost, I came to the conclusion that Lowe and Mitchell did a solid job with the material. Kevin Dunn gives an emotional performance as George Anthony, Casey’s father. And Oscar Nunez manages to be appropriately unlikable as defense attorney Jose Baez. That might have been due in part to the fact that I’m quite angry at his character on The Office this season, but still…
Finally, Lifetime, I’d like to ask why Nancy Grace’s cameo featured the phrase “champagne toast,” when I distinctly remember the words “champagne jubilee” coming out of her mouth. If nothing else, you should have given me that.