Film review: Terri (2011)

Director: Azazel Jacobs

Cast: John C. Reilly (Mr. Fitzgerald), Jacob Wisocki (Terri), Bridger Zadina (Chad), Olivia Crocichia (Heather)

With “Terri” I begin a whole new approach to my film reviews. I will no longer have the “1-minute reviews” posts if the movies at hand are worth analyzing more fully and in response to the often incomplete and insatisfactory nature of my recent shorter reviews.

With that in mind, lets go back to today’s review.

“Terri” is a cute little film that follows a High School teenager that bears the name of the movie’s title. Terri is overweight, some would say obese, a fact that makes him the target of bullies and the source of some of his insecurities. No less important to his predicament is that Terri lives alone with his uncle, an old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who is not fully capable of raising a troubled teenager.

Despite being the product of severe neglect, having been left to his own by his parents, Terri has managed to live decently enough without not one person to answer to. Terri, almost mind-numbingly, goes through the daily routine without any change or excitement. In his slumber, Terri has let himself go. He is not only a big guy, but he seems to carry the burden of depression, evidenced by his complete lack of interest in making friends, wearing something different than pijamas or going to school on time.

It is clear from early on, thanks to the nuances of the film that Terri is a good-hearted guy that just needs some guidance before he derails completely.
After being late for class yet again, Terri is summoned to speak to the principal, Mr. Fitzgerald, played skillfully by John C. Reilly. In him, Terri finds a friend, one that seems to genuinely care about his well-being.

As we witness the relationship develop, it becomes apparent that Terri depends on the success of this unlikely friendship to begin to integrate to his surroundings as more than just a quiet target for bullies. The bond between the two might be a bit awkward, as we are to believe good-hearted principals such as Mr. Fitzgerald do exist. However hard to believe, the relationship is an interesting back and forth that feels genuine.

Jacob Wisocki is surprinsingly great as Terri, an innocent, sensitive and smart young guy who we root for throughout the entire film. John C. Reilly as Mr. Fitzgerald is also very compelling. As in previous indie films he has been a part of, John brings a natural comedic relief that without being laugh-out loud funny, easily brings out plenty of laughs.

As Terri begins to open up to others, he meets a few “cast-aways” at school. First, there is Chad, played by Bridger Zadina in a role that demanded significant range. The young actor does well enough and, in him, we find Terri’s short and skinny sidekick that surely has a lot more psychological issues than our protagonist.
Finally, Terri meets Heather, a girl who after going through public humiliation, finds shelter in Terri’s caring personality. It is only when Heather comes along that the film Gets a bit more dramatic, exploring Terri’s and Chad’s sexuality with the same akwardness that permeates the rest of the film.

Though compelling for most of its running time, especially when Jacob and John C. Reilly share the screen, “Terri” suffers from a total lack of pace. Whenever the film seems to gather some momentum and lead to some sort of important moment, it always fall short.

Beyond a few surprising performances and odd twists, the story does not go beyond a modest and charming exploration of a social “cast-away”, a subject that has been explored in one too many films. Though entertaining at times, the film failed to get a significant emotional response out of me, coming to an end in the same unremarkable manner in which it is presented, falling short of having me truly engaged.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (above average) – good performances, charming story and well executed film. Nothing remarkable

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2 thoughts on “Film review: Terri (2011)

  1. I just saw the trailer in front of Henry’s Crime this weekend. It looks kind of sad and uncomfortable to watch, and your review seems to confirm my dread.

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