Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie with Abe: Terri

Directed by Azazel Jacobs
Released July 1, 2011

Teacher movies are very common. In fact, “Bad Teacher,” starring Cameron Diaz, was released just last week. To term “Terri” a teacher movie isn’t quite accurate since John C. Reilly’s Mr. Fitzgerald isn’t actually a teacher, but instead a vice principal. Yet the story is the generally the same: Mr. Fitzgerald spots Terri, an overweight teen who has begun wearing pajamas to school, and decides to take an active interest in him. Despite the familiar themes, “Terri” manages to present a fresh and funny take on the educational professional-student relationship that results in a warm and endearing film.

John C. Reilly had a great year back in 2002. He starred in four films, three of which – “The Hours,” “Gangs of New York,” and “Chicago” – were nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. He also netted himself an Oscar nod for his supporting role as Mr. Cellophane in “Chicago.” In the years since, Reilly has taken on some interesting roles, some intriguing (“Criminal”) and others lamentable (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”). Last year, Reilly charmed as an unlikely hero in “Cyrus,” and surprised in “Cedar Rapids” earlier this year by turning what could have been a despicable character into a loveable louse.

Now Reilly has found another terrific role in Mr. Fitzgerald, an enthusiastic, fake-tantrum-prone vice principal who takes a good deal of time out of his day to meet with the misfits at his school, which include Terri and a hair-plucking, off-balance child named Chad. Fitzgerald doesn’t just reach out to the troubled teens, but he devotes his entire self to whipping them into shape, even going off-book and outside regulations on occasion to ensure that his message is clear. Reilly embodies the character with sincerity and honesty, making him both the dramatic and comedic core of the film.

Reilly is at the center of the film as the known quantity, but he’s ably supported by young actors playing just the roles they’re supposed to play. Jacob Wysocki, an alumnus of the ABC Family series “Huge,” emits a considerable lack of enthusiasm as Terri, therefore prompting Mr. Fitzgerald to begin helping him. Bridger Zadina, whose credits prior to this include only TV guest spots, is a bundle of nutty energy as Chad, believably portraying a teenager with a few social issues. Olivia Crocicchia, previously known only as youngest daughter Katy Gavin on “Rescue Me,” balances out the budding testosterone with a bright performance as Heather, a popular girl whose circumstances thrust her into an unlikely friendship with Terri. This decent ensemble and a smart script from Patrick Dewitt and director Azazel Jacobs elevate this film from what could have been a forgettable replica to a worthwhile dramedy.


No comments: