Thursday, July 21, 2011

A troubled kid breaks the movie mold

A quietly funny teen drama that's capable of surprise.
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. *** 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.

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