DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
TERRI (director: Azazel Jacobs; screenwriter: Patrick Dewitt; cinematographer: Tobias Datum; editor: Darrin Navarro; music: Mandy Hoffman; cast: Jacob Wysocki (Terri), Creed Bratton (Uncle James), Olivia Crocicchia (Heather Miles), Bridger Zadina (Chad), John C. Reilly (Mr. Fitzgerald), Mary Anne McGarry (Ms Hamish); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Alison Dickey/Hunter Gray/Lynette Howell/ Alex Orlovsky; ATO Pictures; 2011)

 
"Jacobs' pic might not be the most profound, but it's enjoyable, humorous, thoughtful, earnest and it has a feel for what it's like to be an adolescent geek."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Azazel Jacobs ("Momma's Man") directs this inspirational education drama about misfit teens. It tells of how the teens need to feel wanted and loved by their peers, parents and teachers, in order to have the best chance to succeed in school. It's adapted by Patrick deWitt from his short stories.

The underachieving 15-year-old Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is the bright but socially awkward obese suburban high school student abandoned by his parents and dwelling with his elderly ailing and possibly mentally challenged Uncle James (Creed Bratton) in his modest rundown country home. The gentle giant Terri's problem is that he's teased by classmates and gets into trouble with school authorities for his frequent tardiness and wearing pajamas to school. Assistant Principal Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) comes on as Terri's friend and also befriends a few other of the school misfits, who are recruited for counseling sessions.

Loner Terri makes friends with two other outcast students, the obnoxious, nervous hair pulling, runt Chad (Bridger Zadina) and the sexually enticing Heather (Crocicchia), who was almost expelled for letting the school bully finger her in Home Economics class until Terri provided her an excuse for her actions. The three confused students meet one night at Terri's tool shed, where they drink whiskey, pop Uncle James' meds and strip. The young ones don't know how to act mature and that scene might be a scary one for parents to watch, except this is a gentle pic and any misplaced behavior is looked upon with compassion as a learning experience.

The AP's unorthodox disciplinary methods seem to be working in making school a much better experience for the three outcasts; and as Fitzgerald says “We’re all just doing the best we can.” Which is all this slight narrative is suggesting in its depiction of the public school system and some students who don't fit in, as it shows how big problems for a school can be reduced by going outside the box to deal with them.

Jacobs' pic might not be the most profound, but it's enjoyable, humorous, thoughtful, earnest and it has a feel for what it's like to be an adolescent geek. The John C. Reilly character seems phony, but he's such a charmer that he dazzles the viewer with his BS like he does the kids and gets over as someone with a good heart like the titular hero. Though I can't imagine a public high school in America allowing a student to attend in PJ's, nevertheless the easy way the pic unfolds makes it seem best to ignore such stretches of reality as just Hollywood magic and engage in a suspension of disbelief.

REVIEWED ON 8/20/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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