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Review

Empowering women in documentary 'Beauty Bites Beast'

When “Beauty Bites Beast” gets out of its own way, it’s a powerful documentary about the importance of women’s self-defense. Based on director Ellen Snortland’s book of the same name, the film makes its case for women preparing for and defending themselves against physical attacks, instead of relying only on men to change their behavior.

There are inspiring interviews with survivors, compelling statistics and empowering video footage of women fighting back. However, all that threatens to get lost in a film that tries to bolster its case with silly comic-strip animation, unnecessary winks at the audience and a booming narrator credited as Ubiquitous Voice of Male Authority (Bob Joles).

Snortland and her crew travel the world, visiting North Dakota, Mexico and Jerusalem as they document efforts to teach women how to deter violence through classes and workshops. Each story is different, but the look of triumph on a woman’s face appears to be universal.

The groups Snortland encounters are doing good work in their communities, and it’s difficult not to cheer at some of the more emotional moments. These scenes are balanced by interviews with experts, including “The Gift of Fear” author Gavin De Becker.

“Beauty Bites Beast” does lessen its usage of narration and animation as the film gets going, but the damage is already done. It blunts its own effectiveness by over-embellishing stories and facts that could have stood on their own.

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‘Beauty Bites Beast’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena

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