Terri (2011)

If only more schools had assistant principals like John C. Reilly working there, then school wouldn’t be such hell.

Terri (Jacob Wysocki) is a mountain of a young man. He’s about 15 and he wears his pajamas everywhere, including to school. When the school’s assistant principal (John C. Reilly) takes an interest in Terri’s life, he finally discovers that he has someone to talk to.

This premise sounds like one of those “adult and weird, outsider teen connect” movies that always end up saying the same thing while showing nothing different or new. However, director Azazel Jacobs seems like he’s above that formula and gave me one of the bigger surprises that I’ve seen recently.

Where this film works in, is it’s script that isn’t anything ground-breaking, but it still hits moments that are very true. The film shows that teens are awkward as hell when it comes to anything: sex, beer, talking to adults, doing chores, etc. This is the truth and being a teenager myself (young adult I prefer), I know that life can sometimes be a bit painful to sit with sometimes depending on the type of situation I get myself caught into. Life is pretty much this way for all teenagers and I think that this flick did a great job of showing that in ways that I haven’t really ever seen done in a high-school movie, let alone, a piece of indie work.

The film puts Terri in many awkward places and that’s where plenty of the comedy comes from, but it’s not all about giving that uncomfortable vibe of humor that people like Sacha Baron Cohen partake in so much, it actually has plenty of genuinely funny moments that may take you back to some of your own high-school experiences no matter how bad or good they may be. There are also other moments though, where this flick starts to show its heart, as weird as it may be, and that’s where the film started to win me over. All of these characters are likable and Jacobs spends enough time with them to give us a feel like we know them well enough and care about them as well. It’s also great that he doesn’t go down the same road of giving Terri some dramatic and emotional break-through to all of his classmates, the kid is still a bit of a weirdo but he is also a very sweet character deep down inside and that’s all that matter. Actually, that’s what this whole film is: sweet. And even though at first it may seem like just another weird and quirky indie movie, it will actually surprise you by how much it may or may not get to you. Give it a chance people! You won’t be disappointed!

As a whole though, some moments of this flick can get a little too weird for me and took me out of it as well. There’s a couple of the scenes in the beginning that seemed like it was just trying to be weird and quirky, just for the sake of being so which is never really a good sign for any indie flick. Also, by the end of the flick, we get this very long scene where Terri has two people over and even though it may be a bit a bizarre and humorous, it doesn’t seem very realistic. I don’t want to give anything away by saying what happens in this scene but some people get drunk a little too fast, and start acting like assholes, a little too fast as well. I mean I’m no expert on drinking, or even getting drunk, but I know that a couple of sips doesn’t get you completely zonked and doing idiotic stuff. Then again, I ain’t no light-weight!

I don’t know where they found this kid, but Jacob Wysocki is pretty damn good here as Terri. This is his first role and it’s a great role because the film basically is resting on his shoulders the whole time, but not once does Wysocki show signs of being a ill-prepared rookie. Instead, he struts his stuff like a professional and adds so much more dimension to this character than I could have ever imagined. Terri is a weird kid but he’s not terribly strange to the point of where we can’t bear to watch this sad sap anymore, instead he seems to be one of those pretty sullen kids that still knows enough about the world to make you realize that he is a good kid deep down inside. Terri may have problems, both at home and in school, but he also has a great big heart to him that Wysocki wears on his sleeve the whole during his performance here. Due to his physical nature (and I’m not even being a dick either), I don’t know how many more roles Wysocki will be offered in the future but I hope whatever it may be, that he chooses them right and gets to show us more of his acting skills.

However, as good as this kid may be, he’s definitely not the best performance from this whole flick. John C. Reilly is amazing here as Mr. Fitzgerald and probably gives a performance that should have at least been nominated for an Oscar. Just about every scene this guy has is perfect because he has a great blend of humor, drama, and insight with just about every scene that gives you this great warmth to his character every time he’s on screen. He’s a total goof ball because he tries his hardest to discipline these kids, but just can’t because he’s too much of a nice guy so instead, tries to help them all. The film also doesn’t try to show him off as this all-around perfect dude who’s right about everything, instead we see him as an actual human-being filled with more flaws and problems than any other regular teenager. He’s an understanding dude and all of the scenes between him and Terri don’t feel like the usual “parent vs. student” talk these movies usually go down, but instead come off as two friends who are just simply having chats about life and all of the issues they seem to both be having with it. They are both great together in every scene they have, but it’s mainly Reilly who owns these scenes by making me laugh but also realize that maybe not all of the staff at my school are as big of dicks as I may think they be.

Consensus: Terri may not be throughly consistent, but it’s a very sweet, kind-hearted, and believable little piece of indie work that shows what it’s like to be an awkward teen and also have to put up with the other problems that usually come from just being yourself. It may not start off so great at first, but it soon starts to grow on you much ado to John C. Reilly and Jacob Wysocki.



  1. This was easily one of the most overlooked movies of the past year. John C. Reilly’s performance was also memorable. To bad it got lost in the sea of blockbusters or more promoted independent films. Great review man.

    • Yeah, I don’t even remember seeing this anywhere around my area when it first came out which is a shame because it’s a great little gem. Thanks Alec.

  2. I definitely agree that this is better than most awkward teen movies because it just feels so real and sincere. And yeah we all should have had an assistant prinicpal like Frilly, he ease just awesome in this movie.

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