Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Peter Werner
Written by: Allison Cross & Jeff Ashton
Starring: Rob Lowe, Elizabeth Mitchell, Oscar Nunez, Marisa Ramirez, Kevin Dunn & Virginia Welch
In 2011, a notorious trial took place in Florida surrounding an unspeakable crime. Two-year-old Caylee Anthony was killed and the prime suspect was her mother Casey. 400 pieces of evidence pointed toward Casey as a murderer and over 90 witnesses in the space of 33 days furthered that belief. The most suspicious and obvious detail about this case was that Casey Anthony did not report her daughter missing for 31 days and was seen living it up in her new child-free life. No doubt crosses my mind, and the minds of many others, that Casey Anthony is a monster, but her trial was arguably one of the biggest screw-ups in the history of screw-ups. This courtroom fiasco resulted in her being let go with a “Not Guilty” verdict. When Lifetime announced they were making a movie out of the case in late 2012, I was interested and skeptical at the same time. Finally catching this made-for-TV flick airing on the small screen, I can say that it’s a mixed bag.
After being indicted for multiple crimes (murder, child abuse, and lying to the police), Casey Anthony is finally on trial. Jeff Ashton is a member of the prosecution team and feels that the case is rather open and shut. The fact that Casey didn’t report her daughter as missing for 31 days and was seen partying speaks volumes, but other pieces of evidence (including suspicious Google searches) and key witnesses (Casey’s father) are also used. This is all in an effort to pack a compelling argument that Casey Anthony should receive the death penalty. However, the process doesn’t exactly go as planned for a variety of reasons. PROSECUTING CASEY ANTHONY is basically a reenactment of the court case that rocked nation.
The obvious stigma of being a Lifetime Channel original movie takes its toll on PROSECUTING CASEY ANTHONY in an unusual way. There have been rare exceptions (BIG DRIVER), but most Lifetime films are ridiculously melodramatic and focus too much on the feelings of a single character instead of moving a plot forward. CASEY ANTHONY has the opposite problem. This film plays out like dramatic reenactment snippets on a true crime documentary somehow got glued together in order to fill a feature-length amount of time. This is a case where focusing on a single character, Jeff Ashton, would have benefitted this film. The cast isn’t necessarily a strong suit of the film either as none of the actors, save for one, look anything like the real life people they’re portraying. This is most noticeable in Jose Baez played by Oscar Nunez and Jeff Ashton being played by Rob Lowe. The latter of these performers is a solid actor with talent behind his name, but he’s not made up to even look slightly like Ashton and that’s distracting. The only person who bears resemblance to their real life counterpart is Virginia Welch as Casey Anthony. Though she doesn’t have too many scenes or much dialogue, Welch is scary as the manipulative monster.
This film focuses far too much on being just a so-so TV reenactment of the trial (complete with freeze frames detailing what exactly the following scene will focus on). PROSECUTING CASEY ANTHONY remains interesting if only to see how the court case was botched in plenty of ways. The prosecution did not excel at their job and defense lawyer Jose Baez was running an easily led jury around in circles. The court room scenes are informative for those who might not know every detail of how this supposedly open-and-shut case got screwed up by many different factors. Fake news clips interjected between scenes show how the media made a circus out of the whole courtroom drama (arguably near the OJ Simpson level of absurdity). Nancy Grace also shows up way too often in these clips. I sort of wish they had varied them up a tad more as every news group was covering it in some way, not just Nancy Grace ranting and raving.
PROSECUTING CASEY ANTHONY might not be a great look inside a man who tried to convict an obvious child killer, but it is a decent and informative TV reenactment of the notorious trial that is sure to go down in history. Though Casey was found not guilty on accounts of serious crime, the public has given her a deserved life sentence of infamy. Jeff Ashton remarked about the botched trial, Casey Anthony was the best liar he had ever seen, but karma has a way of balancing the scales.