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Critical Consensus: "Terri" Is The Pick of the Week This Holiday Weekend

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 29, 2011 at 4:7AM

Azazel Jacobs's "Terri" is the criticWIRE pick of the week heading into this holiday weekend. Following two straight weeks of documentaries ("Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" and "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times") topping iW's weekly chart, the 2011 Sundance Film Festival alum edged out the likes of Cristi Puiu's "Aurora" and Nick Tomnay's "The Perfect Host," both of which also open this week.
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Azazel Jacobs's "Terri" is the criticWIRE pick of the week heading into this holiday weekend. Following two straight weeks of documentaries ("Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" and "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times") topping iW's weekly chart, the 2011 Sundance Film Festival alum edged out the likes of Cristi Puiu's "Aurora" and Nick Tomnay's "The Perfect Host," both of which also open this week.

Poignant, unexpected and quietly profound, "Terri" follows its titular character - an overweight teenager played by remarkable newcomer Jacob Wysocki. As Terri struggles at home (his primary caregiver is a pill-popping uncle) and at school (kids taunt him with names like "double d"), his life takes a turn when assistant principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly, great as always) decides to take him on. Though the basic plot mirrors many mainstream student-teacher coming of age dramas, in Jacobs's hands "Terri" becomes a strange and subtle sibling to that genre.

"Terri" averaged an "B+" from 23 different critics, taking an "A-" from indieWIRE's own Eric Kohn, who discusses the film - and others (including some studio offerings) - below:

This is a perfect weekend for blockbuster alternatives: While "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" will undoubtedly dominate multiplexes this weekend, it isn't the best new release about a young guy awkwardly transitioning into adulthood. (After all, how many times can Shia LaBeouf don a shocked expression as massive CGI figures hurtle in his direction before it starts to feel like a routine? He may have mastered the art of saying no (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IXCK1EyP4s), but not when it comes to this supremely crass franchise.) Instead, for an ideal look at adolescence giving way to the harsh realities of growing up, look no further than "Terri," Azazel Jacobs' bittersweet tale of a chubby high school loner (fantastic newcomer Jacob Wysocki) taking unconventional advice from a moody vice principal (John C. Reilly). While Jacobs' last drama, "Momma's Man," followed a grown man wishing he could be young again, "Terri" follows a young man desperate to get old. With its abrupt shift in the third act, "Terri" turns extraordinarily dark, as its main character gets a sneak peek at his potential future. Needless to say, it's not so rosy, and the lack of a tidy resolution allows Jacobs to subvert the conventionals of a predictable teen dramedy. That "Terri" resists commercial tendencies does, in fact, make it the anti-Michael Bay bet: Wysocki's uncomfortably hulkish figure resembles the world's friendliest transformer, but the transformation he goes through beats anything in the Optimus Prime playbook.

Of course, older moviegoers may opt out of "Transformers" anyway and instead head to "Larry Crowne," Tom Hanks' imitation Capra tale of a blue collar worker (played by the star himself) who goes back to college in the hopes of upping his odds of landing a new job. (It certainly doesn't make the case that Hanks should land more directing gigs.) With flimsy comedic insight and Hallmark-ready lessons, Hanks' sappy plot stumbles from one cliché to another, as his naive character nearly charms the pants off a downtrodden speech professor played by Julia Roberts. The movie plays like "Billy Madison" with cheesier gags for a braindead audience, particularly annoying because the premise and Hanks (as Crowne) both hold the potential for something much deeper. To experience a better evocation of the unemployment angst, try "Aurora," which opened this week at the IFC Center. Romanian director Cristi Puiu ("The Death of Mr. Lazarescu") delivers an amazingly patient look at one man's downward cycle to utter despair, culminating in an act of shocking violence that neither Hanks--nor Michael Bay--would ever dream of putting onscreen.

Check out the links below for more extensive takes on "Terri," "Aurora," and "The Perfect Host." Also offered is the top 10 criticWIRE scores for films already in theaters, which is currently topped by Rodman Fletcher's "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop."

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week
NOTE: The averages listed here are current as of the publishing of this article. They are subject to change as new grades come in, and will be updated in next week's edition of this article.

Terri (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Aurora (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Perfect Host (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B


criticWIRE: 10 Best Bets Already In Theaters

1. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

2. Meek's Cutoff (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

3. Tuesday After Christmas (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

4. Page One (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

5. Buck (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

6. Submarine (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

7. Viva Riva! (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

8. The Tree of Life (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

9. The Trip (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

10. Passione (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+


Previous Picks of the Week:
June 22: Rodman Fletcher's "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop"
June 15: Andrew Rossi's "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times"
June 8: Michael Winterbottom's "The Trip"
June 1: Richard Ayoade's "Submarine"
May 25: Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life"
May 18: Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris"
May 11: Lu Chaun's "City of Life and Death"
May 4: Koji Wakamatsu's "Caterpillar"
April 27: Clio Barnard's "The Arbor"
April 20: Denis Villeneuve's "Incendies"
April 13: Janus Metz's "Armadillo"
April 6: Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff"
March 30: Michaelangelo Frammartino's "Le Quattro Volte"

This article is related to: In Theaters, Terri