I’ve come to dislike almost every quality the movie Terri promises to exude. A staunchly independent spirit makes Terri immediately recognizable as a Sundance entry. Moreover, the movie’s not beyond indulging in moments of off-kilter quirkiness. On top of all that, Terri takes us into the world of another troubled adolescent, a young man whose obesity makes him a target of derision for his schoolmates.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Yes, I’m suspicious of all such trappings, but I found myself wrapped up in Terri, a movie full of unexpected soul, quiet humor and an unassuming sense of itself.
Credit director Azazel Jacobs (Momma’s Man) for finding precisely the right teen-ager to play Terri. Jacob Wysocki portrays Terri, a kid who wears pajamas to school, and lives with his uncle (Creed Batton), a man who seems to be suffering from a dementia that allows him only limited periods of lucidity.
John C. Reilly brilliantly complements Wysocki’s performance as a kid on the verge of self-discovery. Reilly’s Mr. Fitzgerald — the assistant principal at Terri’s school — tries to develop relationships with all the school’s misfit kids. Fitzgerald seems to care about his charges, youngsters with whom he’s inappropriately but refreshingly honest. Reilly is developing into a kind of comic treasure, and he gives tremendous credibility to a slightly implausible character.
In a late scene, Terri almost discovers the mysteries of sex with Heather (Olivia Crocicchia), a girl who has earned the scorn of her classmates for precocious sexual behavior and who Terri chooses to defend. The scene is terribly awkward, which perhaps fits the situation: Terri, Heather and a much-less appealing misfit buddy (Bridger Zadina) get drunk together.
Terri distinguishes itself and its director by rising above almost all the cliches suggested by its overly familiar subject matter. Terri is the kind of movie about a teen-ager that probably will mean more to adults than to kids. That’s a good thing.